Jesus Guevara told the crowd he is an undocumented worker from Mexico who has lived and worked in the United States for more than 15 years.
“I own my own home in Lakeland,” Guevara said through a Spanish translator. “I’ve been paying property taxes for over 15 years. I’ve been helping sustain the agriculture industry in this country for 15 years.”
Guevara said he is facing deportation on May 7. He has exhausted all his legal options, he said, and the only thing left to do is to get involved with community groups who might be able to help him.
That’s why he attended a rally Wednesday for immigration reform in Ybor City.
“I’m asking for your support on these last few days,” Guevara said. “I don’t want to be separated from my family.”
Despite thunderstorms rolling through the area, about 35 people attended the event at Ybor Centennial Park, which was hosted by a bevy of organizations, including the Tampa Bay Dream Defenders, the Florida Immigration Coalition and the Legalization for All Network.
The rally was planned specifically for International Workers Day, when workers in Chicago in 1886 went on strike demanding an eight-hour workday. The issue is heating up this year as Congress considers legislation that might create a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.
Co-organizer Juan Sousa-Rodriguez said he wanted Wednesday’s rally to raise awareness for the more than 11 million undocumented workers in this country. Sousa-Rodriguez said there are countless cases such as Guevara’s, of people who have made this country their home and had children born here, but who may get deported because they are not U.S. citizens.
“We want equal standing and equal protection,” Sousa-Rodriguez said.
The crowd huddled under a pavilion to stay dry as speakers came forward to demand immigration reform. People waved red flags with the logo “L4A” — which stands for legalization for all — spray painted in black.
The attendees then formed a line to march through the park and along Ybor City’s entertainment strip on Seventh Avenue.
Guevara was in the middle of the march, waving a small L4A flag in the rain.