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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Undocumented immigrants and elected officials gathered at a local church to discuss threatening immigration policies and how to deal with them Thursday night.

In a meeting that frequently switched between English and Spanish, about 40 undocumented immigrants listened to guidelines set forth by the American Civil Liberties Union on how to defend themselves against President Donald Trump’s mass-deportation agenda.

The event was led by local grassroots group. The group, led in part by a UF alumnus, was created to preserve the human rights of all Gainesville citizens, regardless of immigration status.

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and other community leaders attended the meeting, which lasted about two hours.

Everyone at the event, about 100 in total, clapped when Darnell arrived. Alachua County was the only Florida county listed for failing to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy in a report published by the Department of Homeland Security, according to Alligator archives.

“My role, my responsibility, and that of all those who work with me, is about human rights,” Darnell told the crowd. “We care about people who are victimized.”

Darnell, who distributed her business card to the meeting’s attendees, said ACSO adheres to most of ACLU’s guidelines. She added that if anyone is being treated poorly by an Alachua County Sheriff’s officer, they should personally let her know.

Undocumented immigrants stood in front of the crowd to deliver tearfilled testimonials about why they left their countries, and how frightening it is to live in fear of being deported.

Poe, who said this kind of meeting will be the first of many, thanked those who were courageous enough to share painful stories.

“In Gainesville, whoever you are, wherever you came from and however long you’ve been here, you’re welcomed and we’re glad that you’re here,” he said. “I’m here tonight as one of your leaders to make sure every single person in the city feels welcomed and a part of the community.”

Contact Molly Vossler at and follow her on Twitter at @molly_vossler 

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