Manuel Guerra Casas, undocumented Treasure Coast man hopes for immigration reform

Has lived in U.S. for 13 years


With the Boston attacks moving into the immigration debate, what about those people hoping to gain a pathway to citizenship?


In a small Martin County park, Manuel Guerra Casas talks about how he came to this country illegally at 16.


"I crossed the river… swimming," he remembers.


He spent time in Texas, then eventually met up with an older sister who was here legally in Florida.


"I wasn't aware that I was breaking an immigration law.  I wasn't aware that I was doing something wrong to this country.  Now I know because I went to school  in this country and I learned," said Guerra Casas.


Guerra Casas graduated from high school in Martin County in two years.


"As most immigrants come here for a better life and that's what I have been trying to do," said Guerra Casas.


Because of his undocumented status, he was rejected from the seminary, university, and the military.


Guerra Casas has been working as a landscaper for the past decade. He has been faced with deportation in the past, but is hopeful that comprehensive immigration reform will help him get the documentation he's long been hoping for.


"I still believe in America. I still believe it's the land of opportunity and you can accomplish your dreams. But if you're here illegally, you can't," said Guerra Casas.


Guerra Casas has become an activist, meeting with lawmakers in both parties. He was in Miami last week at a Hispanic Leadership Conference.


But just as there are those in support, others call the immigration bill "amnesty".  


David Caulkett with Floridians for Immigration Enforcement says this bill is the accumulation of every failed enforcement effort for decades.  


"If they had put the enforcement first and then incrementally allow amnesty, some Americans might accept that," said Caulkett from Broward County.


Caulkett's group is especially upset with Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio's office has been pumping out dozens of press releases in support of the measure which Rubio helped craft. But in the wake of the Boston attack, Rubio says things need to move slowly.


The junior Republican senator from Florida released the following statement Tuesday afternoon saying: "I disagree with those who say that the terrorist attack in Boston has no bearing on the immigration debate." 


He added, "If there are flaws in our immigration system that were exposed by the attack in Boston, any immigration reform passed by Congress this year should address those flaws."


Rubio then went on to say, "The attack reinforces why immigration reform should be a lengthy, open, and transparent process."


Democratic Senator Bill Nelson stated on his website "we simply can't deport 11 million people" and that he supports the principles of the bipartisan group of senators.


Freshman Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy of the 18th District said he supports the major components of the plan, including a reasonable pathway to citizenship, forcing those who are in our country illegally to pay a fine and go to the back of the line.


Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel said that meaningful immigration reform should allow an earned path to citizenship that unites families and promotes legal employment.

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