An immigration reform activist says a staffer for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., – a key Republican supporting a comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress – tried to have him deported.
Three protesters were voluntarily arrested and charged Tuesday with trespassing at Rubio's Tampa, Fla., office after a sit-in aimed at attracting attention to Rubio's opposition to including provisions in the reform package that would address same-sex relationships. The protesters were also upset by his support for more border fencing and his opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
"We were only asking for an apology for his anti-LGBT stances... instead his office tried to harm me personally," Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez told U.S. News.
The Brazilian-born activist was not among the protesters that were arrested. "My role was to speak with the police," he said. "I was waiting for the three people who were arrested to be released," when, Sousa-Rodriguez recounted, a police officer approached him and asked, "Are you here illegally?"
Sousa-Rodriguez declined to answer. "What is your immigration status?" the officer rephrased, informing him, "it was a person inside the office who told me."
Although he wasn't detained, Sousa-Rodriguez believes one Rubio staffer in particular intended to have him hauled off and deported. Earlier this year, Sousa-Rodriguez said, "I told him my personal story" about living illegally in the country since childhood.
"He was trying to harm me," the activist said. "The senator who is trying to look like he's pro-immigrant, his office told the police officers that I didn't have my papers in order to have me arrested, to deport me."
Sousa-Rodriguez said he currently has a two-year work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was announced last year after the legislative defeat of the DREAM Act. "I'm still undocumented, but I'm allowed to stay," he said.
The protesters involved in the sit-in were associated with GetEQUAL, a gay activist group.
Rubio spokesman Alex Conant did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Calls to Rubio's Tampa office Tuesday went to voicemail.