High School Students Supporting Tuition Equity in Florida

As our volunteers continue their visits to high schools in Collier County, they continue to find that support for tuition equity for all students in Florida is overwhelming. Earlier this week, our state House of Representatives passed HB 851, (In-State Tuition for All Florida graduates, regardless of immigration status)  out of its last committee unanimously. While we still have to wait until it reaches the house floor, the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project and several other organizations in the state have been mobilizing and collecting signatures for the state-wide petition that was created in favor of tuition equity for undocumented students.

We need your help! Please, consider adding your name to the already hundreds of names supporting these measures. You can submit your signature electronically HERE and forward it to friends and family. Let’s show our legislators that this is something that we not only want, but also need! Once you’ve done that, show your support visually by submitting an image of yourself holding a sign similar to our high school students below! Email your image to rommy@collierstoriesmatter.org  and we will make sure to showcase you on our Facebook and blog!

Lely High School Students Showing Support

Lely High School Students Showing Support

Gulf Coast High School Students Showing Support

Gulf Coast High School Students Showing Support

Educators and Volunteers Showing Support

Educators and Volunteers Showing Support

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Art for Dignity and Justice

I had the great privilege to create a piece on behalf of the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project for the October 5th National Day of Action March for Dignity and Justice! The piece is currently featured on Culture Strike and Not1MoreDeportation. We, as CCNSP, are very humbled to be able be part of such a pivotal moment for our communities and we will continue demanding dignity and justice for as long as it takes! We hope to see you all out on October 5th, too!

Feel free to share the graphic widely through your social networks! Please, credit Rommy Torrico and link back to collierstoriesmatter.org or blog.collierstoriesmatter.org. We hope to get prints soon so if you’re interested, feel free to email us with your name and the quantity so that we have an idea of how many we will need to order. Send all inquires to rommy@collierstoriesmatter.org

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Also featured on Not1MoreDeportation is our Paletero piece! We will have 5×8 postcards available on donation at our trainings, events and online. Keep a look out!

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62468_4548416756365_1751348120_nMy name is Rommy Torrico and I am the proud undocumented daughter of two amazing immigrants.

We came to this country on July 16, 1994 with dreams; with a vision of what we would do and what our lives could be like. I remember the first time I ever stepped foot here was at the Miami International Airport. A surge or excitement pulsed through me but mostly I was sleepy because we arrived late at night. However, that didn’t take away from the fact that this was the land of dreams. I remember sitting on my father’s lap, my head cradled in the nook of his neck as we waited for someone to come pick us up. At some point before nodding off, I looked down to see two huge suitcases. They were green, looked brand new and carried a treasure inside. Everything from our past life was in there. As far as I knew at my ripe 5 years, my whole world was in there. What I didn’t know was that my world was about to get bigger.

We’ve carried on these past 19 years still in search of the dreams we came to find. We realized that things here were very different than we had expected. Being undocumented created a world full of limitations and uncertainty that we hadn’t prepared for. Yet, we’ve made it through. Struggle after struggle, we’ve had the privilege and good fortune to stay afloat. And here we are, 19 years later… my father is now a legal permanent resident, my mother is in the process of adjusting her status, my sister is a naturalized citizen and I have temporary relief through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

It’s been quite a journey that life has taken us on. My parents have been put to the test time after time and have had to make immense sacrifices along the way. One of the hardest sacrifices and one of things I believe my father most regrets most was not being able to see his mother before she passed because his status wouldn’t allow him to leave and return. After that, he promised himself that he would visit as soon as he got the chance.

And that opportunity came on September 12, 2013. My father took his first trip back to Chile to visit a family that hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years and to visit his mother’s resting place.

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When my mother, my sister and I went to drop him off at the airport, the same airport we had arrived at almost 20 years ago, all the memories of our arrival came flooding back. Things at the airport looked different, smelled different but it all felt the same. That same rush of excitement rushed through us and most importantly, we were all there together as we had been back in 1994. As my dad went through his last checkpoint, I noticed for the first time the suitcases he was pulling along were the same ones I remembered during my first time in that same airport. They were green as ever, looking brand new but this time they were holding a new treasure inside; a testament to our strength as a family. Our life was changing once again and now we’re ready for anything. We’ve come full circle.

In an attempt to honor my father’s sacrifice and those fathers like mine, whose only desires are to protect and support their families, I have created a short film of the 24 hours leading up to his big trip to Chile.

I humbly submit this request to you to please watch this video, which demonstrates a small vignette of our lives and that of my parents. We acknowledge our privilege in this new world of mixed statuses and “documentation”; and this is why I want to continue fighting: because our reality shouldn’t revolve around pieces of paper.

We are human. 

The competition will allow our local work to continue as I will donate part of the proceeds to CCNSP and the rest to my parents.

Please share our video and share the stories-the real stories-of what it means to be human without papers.

CommUnity Portrait Project

There is a fountain of strength and power within our stories and our communities that we must not forget. These are some of the many faces of the struggle against immigration enforcement in SW Florida. El pueblo presente, el poder se siente!

*All photographs are part of the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project. Credit to Rommy Torrico.

Newspress Article: Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project asks Rubio for immigration reform that keeps families together

Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project asks Rubio for immigration reform that keeps families together
Written by Christina Cepero
Feb. 27
news-press.com

Newspress article online PDF 

Bonita Springs resident Jorge Rodriguez never wants to be separated from his family again.

In June 2011, the 34-year-old Mexican native was stopped on I-75 on his way to a remodeling job in Miami. When he couldn’t provide documents showing legal status, he was taken by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the Broward Transitional Center.

“Daddy, when are you going to come back?” his two young children asked him when he talked to them on the phone.

After being detained there for two months, he was able to go home after paying a $5,000 bond, but his immigration status remains in limbo.

Rodriguez joined a dozen other advocates of the Florida Immigrant Coalition’s Say Yes to Citizenship campaign today during a meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio’s legislative aide, Zach Zampella, at Edison State College in Naples. Media was not allowed into the meeting.

“We need Sen. Rubio to be on board and say yes to an immigration reform that benefits our communities and our families,” said Angela Cisneros, a volunteer with the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project, at a press conference before the meeting.

“We not only want him to consider a real and reasonable path to citizenship but to push for a moratorium on deportations which would benefit the many currently detained who could qualify for eventual immigration reform.”

Press contacts for Rubio did not return a voicemail or email from The News-Press this afternoon.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office detained 2,956 individuals between fiscal year 2008 and the start of fiscal year 2012, according to case-by-case records obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse through a Freedom of Information Act request. Of those, 2,034, or 69 percent, had not been convicted of a crime and 922 had.

In Lee County, 1,225 were detained. Of those, 835, or 68 percent, had no criminal record, and 390 did.

Grey Torrico, also with the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project, said Rubio’s aide did not address the request for a moratorium on deportations.

“We went in there knowing that a lot of the conversation was going to revolve around operational control of the border,” Torrico said. “He did speak about this nebulous framework around citizenship. … It doesn’t seem like a really concrete laid-out plan.”

Dr. Juan Puerto, who has worked in Immokalee for 30 years, said he sees children who have stopped smiling after a parent was deported.

“They’re depressed; they get behind in school,” he said. “When you disrupt a family, you disrupt the basic unit of society.”

Pastor Miguel Fernando Estrada Salvador, who runs La Mision Bethel Farmworker Ministry in Immokalee, doesn’t want to see any more families torn apart. He said it’s often the breadwinner who is deported, putting the family in a difficult economic situation.

“We just came here to work,” said Maria Bautista, 28, of Naples, who attended with her two young daughters who were born in the United States, adding she and her husband don’t drive for fear of being deported. “We don’t want them to suffer like their parents have.”

Immigration attorney Alex Vernon said: “These people are workers, business owners, employers, mothers, fathers, neighbors and community members. The businesses and communities and families that depend on them are sorely challenged by these indiscriminate immigration detention and enforcement polices, and I think that this community deserves better.”

Paul Midney, a nurse at an Immokalee clinic, urged Rubio to not make the process unnecessarily burdensome. “The harder you make it for families to legalize and to normalize, it just is more difficult for the children to become successful later on in life and to get the educational opportunities so they can reach their potential,” he said.