DORAL– Frida Ulloa's mother and brother are U.S. citizens, and she's lived in the United States for a decade, but under U.S. law, that wasn't enough to get the 24 year-old college student a green card. Because her mother became a citizen just after Ulloa turned 21, she was no longer in the fast track for minors. It will likely take years for her to get U.S. residency.
The Peruvian native said that is why she joined more than three dozen activists today at the Doral office of U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, urging the Republican lawmaker to press harder for immigration reform. Ulloa was one of a handful of activists who planned to fast for five days, both to pressure Diaz-Balart and to call attention to the more than 1,000 average daily deportations.
Diaz-Balart was not at the office, but a staff member offered to talk with the activists. Another brought them sodas and water.
“We meet with them over and over again. We need results and not more words,” said a frustrated Ulloa.
The Senate passed an immigration bill in June. The activists are targeting Diaz-Balart because immigration has so far gone nowhere in the House, and the congressman has long supported reform. He spoke passionately at Tuesday's pro-immigrant rally on the U.S. Mall. Diaz-Balart was part of the so-called House bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that worked to craft a bill GOP Speaker John Boehner could bring to the floor. But the group has since shrunk to five people, with Diaz-Balart as the only remaining Republican.
As the activists gathered today afternoon, they unveiled a banner with adult and child stick figures. The word “deportation” was written across the adult figures. “Foster Care” was written across the children.
At around 5 p.m., organizers said they were asked to leave the office. They said they initially refused but later complied after police were called. The group moved their vigil to Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, a privately run immigrant detention center subcontracted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
There was no answer when The Associated Press called the Doral Police Department's listed non-emergency number seeking comment.
Last week, fellow South Florida U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia sponsored an immigration bill that has since gained nearly 180 Democrats as co-sponsors, but it would need a significant group of Republicans to sign on. The activists want Diaz-Balart to get behind that bill or produce his own.
Diaz-Balart's chief of staff Cesar Gonzalez called it ironic that the activists “forgive the Obama Administration for its record-level deportations while ... (attacking) those, such as Rep. Diaz-Balart, that is recognized as one of the few people who has and continues to pour all his energy into getting immigration reform passed.”
Gonzalez added that it would be easy for Diaz-Balart to introduce a bill that has no chance of becoming law but he wants to work on a solution that “will stop the separation of families, protect the rule of law and help the economy.”
“Actions speak louder than words,” said Natalie Casal, 21, who lives in Diaz-Balart's district. “He's my Congressman. I'm a U.S. citizen. The community is tired of waiting.”