A group of five farmworkers and their seven children from Polk County woke up before sunrise Monday. They drove more than 200 miles to Miami Dade College to witness Jeb Bush’s presidential announcement.
But they never got to see him, because an hour before Jeb went on, his security team informed the group members that they would have to leave the venue. Why? They “might be a threat to security.”
That's what Natalia Jaramillo, a spokesperson for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, tells New Times. Jaramillo was seated with the group and says they were booted possibly because of their matching shirts.
“They targeted any group that looked like an immigrant group with no other reason or explanation than saying they had a yellow T-shirt,” Jaramillo says. “The children wore green T-shirts, the adults yellow, and [security] asked to take out everyone who had on a yellow T-shirt.”
Though their shirts were yellow (and the children’s were green), they bore only the initials "Y.A.R." — Young American Dreamers, a youth organization affiliated with the Florida Immigrant Coalition. Sure, they weren’t Republicans, but Jaramillio argues they had registered for the event, collected tickets under their own names, and had their bags checked at the door like the rest of the audience members.
They cared what Bush would say about immigration reform. But at best, they wanted a photo op and a chance to tell their story to the media afterward, to explain how immigration policy directly affects them and their loved ones. (Unlike another group of immigration activists who later interrupted Jeb's speech, Jaramillo's group had no such plans, she says.)
They sat together on the lower level until around 2 p.m. — an hour before Jeb would take the stage — when a security officer asked those in yellow T-shirts to step outside.
“Without providing a reason,” Jaramillo says, “he told us: ‘Well, if you don’t leave, I’m giving to you a warning, and if you don’t leave right now, it’s going to be considered trespassing and I’m going to have to have police intervene.'”
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The group left peacefully and sat in the parking lot until the event concluded. They didn’t miss much about Bush’s stance on immigration reform (he famously neglected the topic in his announcement). But they did miss the incident involving the other immigration reform group's members, who stood up in the middle of Jeb's speech and forced him to go off script to address them on the topic.
“They targeted the wrong group,” Jaramillo explains. “We had no protest planned.”
New Times has yet to receive a response from Jeb's spokespeople about Jaramillo's complaints.