Community rallies behind Plant City father of six facing deportation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Florida Immigrant Coalition, community members and faith leaders gathered on Thursday night to speak out against separating families because of deportation.

The Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg was packed.

"We came as neighbors. We came as teachers. We came as co-workers to say that they’re not alone," said Pamela Gomez, Regional Organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Luis Blanco's family attended. Luis is a 20-year resident of Plant City. The Mexican-native faces deportation. His daughter, Jennifer, says she is trying to remain strong.

"It's hard. It's difficult. I try and hold it in and be strong and not show weakness. It's really hard especially when you’re such a close family and loving family," said Jennifer Blanco.

Jennifer Blanco says her father, Luis, is being detained in Miami.

As ABC Action News reported earlier this week, Luis have lived in Plant City for 2 decades. He was deported once in 1998 and returned illegally to find work. Jennifer says her pregnant mother misses their father.

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED: Florida father of six faces deportation to Mexico after entering US illegally in the 1990s

"It's hard because I don't like to see her cry. She's a very emotional person. It's going to be hard on her because she's going to be alone now. It's just alot," said Jennifer Blanco.

The crowd encouraging the Blanco family that they are not alone. The group is fighting to keep families together.

"Luis made it clear that he could cross borders because of his family and he did that because of the love he had for his family and he should not be criminalized for that," said Gomez.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition has another "call for action" planned for February 8 at 11:00 a.m. at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

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