Eli García traveled down to Homestead last weekend to turn fear into power.
As one of hundreds of thousands of youth using the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), García innately understands the terror of being undocumented. That feeling was heightened these past weeks, as more details were uncovered about a new policy enforced by the Trump administration that so far has separated an estimated 2,300 undocumented children from their immigrant parents and stuck them in detention centers.
Although they were afraid, members of the Central Florida undocumented community and the Hope CommUnity Center drove down to a detention facility for migrant children in Homestead to protest the conditions and show the kids support, García says. Some people left stuffed toys in front of the facility with notes in Spanish that read, "Welcome! You are not alone. We love you."
"We're scared, but we're turning our fear into power, into organizing and helping our community," she says. "We have to show resistance.
García, who works with the Hope CommUnity Center, says the Apopka nonprofit has spent the past months providing the immigrant community with citizenship classes, GED help, school tutoring and "know your rights" training, where they teach undocumented people what their rights are if they're stopped by law enforcement of federal immigration authorities.
There is also a special program at the Center for unaccompanied minors called "Adelante Caminantes," which translates to "Onward Walkers." Children who fled poverty and violence in their home countries without their guardians are offered hot meals and classes on English and basic skills.
"Applying for asylum is not easy," García says. "Many kids don't have the financial resources to do that. It's a community of kids where they can feel safe to go and learn English and life skills."
García says the undocumented community needs its allies to take action – either by attending rallies, calling members of Congress or donating to groups that help immigrants like the Hope CommUnity Center.
"It has been nonstop attack after attack on the immigrant community with this administration," she says. "Our allies need to be on the front lines with us. We're still standing here, and we're not giving up."
LOCAL IMMIGRANT RIGHTS GROUPS TO SUPPORTHope CommUnity Center
Mission: HCC works with Central Florida's immigrant communities to empower them by advancing education and providing services to the working poor.
Best way to help: You can sign up to help out or donate to the group on their website.
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Mission: A Florida-based organization made up of unions, community members, farmworkers and other advocates to advance fair conditions for immigrants' families.
Contact: 305-571-7254; info@ floridaimmigrant.org
Best way to help: You can sign up to volunteer and to donate on their website.
Trust Orlando Coalition
Mission: A collection of social justice groups in Orlando organizing and advocating for a pro-immigrant "Trust" city policy.
Best way to help: Attend rallies announced on their Facebook page
Mission: A grass-roots, membership-based association of farmworkers and community organizers based in Apopka that fights for social change.
Contact: 407-886-5151; info@ floridafarmworkers.org
Best way to help: Participate in FWAF activities, become a regular volunteer or make a donation.