Florida Brought Fighting Spirit – and 43 Buses – to March for America
My friend Katherine Gorell, of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, wrote this about the Florida delegation that came to the March For America. The sense of hope and determination could be felt throughout the massive caravan of more than 40 buses filled with parents, children and spouses, many of whom have deeply and personally felt the pain of our broken immigration system. Throughout the 18-hour journey, young people and veteran activists who call Florida home shared their stories and dreams of moving ahead with their lives, attaining educational degrees and more than anything else, living without fear of being criminalized when they just want to fully participate in our democracy.
"It was a long ride. The bus was not luxurious. The whole experience was exhausting, but no one on my bus complained because we know better than most that life is not easy, and winning the reform we want to see will not be easy," said Jessica Sanchez, a youth leader with Esperanza Juvenil/Youth for Change and member of FLIC's Board of Directors.
"At the end of the day, my feet were dusty and they hurt, but my soul felt renewed. I had been a part of something larger. I had been a part of history. No matter how taxing the journey, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. That march meant everything to us."
This was the spirit of the march and rally. Many people put their heart and soul and sweat into the effort to make it a success.
The Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) is proud to have been part of the historic mobilization of hundreds of thousands from across the country at Sunday's March for America in Washington D.C. Nearly 2,400 residents of the Sunshine State made their powerful voices heard, voices that demand justice and fairness for immigrant families and communities, and desire to come out of the shadows and be respected for their contributions to our country.
"Just two weeks before the march, our plan was to send just four buses to DC," said Rita Mendez, a FLIC leader in Immokalee. "Very quickly we realized that our members and allies were hungry to hit the streets of Washington in extraordinary numbers. It was a challenge, but we knew we had to move heaven and earth to give people the opportunity to be part of the biggest day our movement has seen in 4 years. We filled 43 buses in two weeks!"
"Floridians made up one of the largest delegations on this historic day," said Juan Pablo Chavez, Florida state director with the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign. "We were determined to represent our state. We achieved our goal."
Our work isn’t over. The march wasn’t a beginning or an ending. It was a significant step that has helped revive momentum for comprehensive immigration reform. We all look forward to taking the next steps toward winning just and humane immigration reform that makes our state and our nation a better place for everyone.
Photo courtesy of Joe Burbank of the Orlando Sentinel.