Hundreds Wednesday pressed members of a diversity council to designate Hillsborough a sanctuary county.
Communities with sanctuary status offer protection against deportation for undocumented immigrants, typically after someone is arrested.
Federal agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement often request that the suspect be detained with no bond while they proceed with the deportation process.
Sanctuary communities have come under fire recently as President Donald Trump has vowed to strip federal funding from those cities and counties.
A large group holding signs, chanting "what do we want? Justice," marched outside the county center downtown before Wednesday's Diversity Advisory Council meeting.
"We should not feel like targets in our own homes," said one concerned woman at the meeting.
A lengthy public input session drew dozens of people speaking out on the issue.
"I'm afraid of living in a police state where entire communities are forced to live underground, where people do not report crimes because they are afraid of being detained or deported," said one woman from South Tampa.
But a handful of people in attendance spoke out against making Hillsborough a sanctuary county.
It's against the law," said Kevin Nelson. "You're breaking the law and you're taking my tax dollars and you're going to have to defend this, this illegal action."
Nancy Palacios joined the over-capacity crowd knowing just how much is at stake. For her uncle, she says living without sanctuary protection turned a simple traffic ticket into something far more serious.
"He was taken into jail, there was a detainer put on him for being undocumented and he was deported a couple days after with no bond opportunity," said Palacios.
With the exception of two members, the Diversity Advisory Council approved recommending sanctuary status to county commissioners. The Hillsborough County Commission has the final decision on whether or not to designate Hillsborough a sanctuary county.