Suncoast lecture hopes to bring awareness for immigration reform

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- In Tallahassee there's an effort to pass a bill that gives a tuition break for college students who are living in the country illegally. The measure passed the House, but it is opposed by many top GOP Senators.

Senator Joe Negron of Stuart used a procedural move to keep the bill from advancing, but Governor Rick Scott has asked the Senate to consider it anyway.

Meanwhile on the Suncoast, two organizations are coming together to bring awareness to immigration reform.

For Suncoast non-profit Unidos Now, immigration reform impacts the core of what they work to achieve. "It's a large topic for over 100,000 Latino families that live in this area that are perhaps recent immigrants, or if they're not, they certainly know and have family or friends," says board chair Kelly Kirschner.

That's why the group has united with the new Sarasota chapter of the World Affairs Council to educate and engage the community on the real complications that come with migration. "What you see is attempts at deporting parents, separating parents from children, or depriving the children from the opportunities that other Americans might have."

Ambassador Daniel Hernandez Joseph, Consul General of Mexico in Boston, hopes his visit will give the opportunity for students, immigrants, teachers, and the public to talk openly about their concerns. "What I'm hoping is just to tell them and bring to them a message that they're not alone. That they're not alone in what they're trying to do, but we're also trying to reach out to reading and hearing a lot of these misconceptions and give them a different version, a different interpretation."

With the undocumented immigrant tuition bill in the hands of legislators, Unidos Now says we need to talk about giving students opportunity. "They are, for all intents and purposes, Floridians; they've gone through our school system, they're graduating, many of them with honors from our high school, and right, we're saying that's where it ends."

The ambassador addresses complications that surround deportation and separation of families and highlights benefits of migration on the economy. "Look at the fact that over 33% of startup companies in the United States today are made by migrants. There's a migrant in about 40% of new companies in the United States."

But it's not just Hispanic immigrants who see the necessity for these talks; a Greek New College student explains her passion for discussing these issues. "People tend to generalize about immigrants and don't know that there's various differences among them culturally, and through their immigrant experiences, and they don't know a lot of hardships that a lot of immigrants have to face," says Gerina Gjergji.

Unidos Now displays a mural, inspired by the state seal and painted by an undocumented immigrant with a desire for a higher education. "The message is one of welcome to people that are foreign to the State of Florida."

The lecture begins at 6pm Thursday at the New College of Florida in the Sudakoff Center.