Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Immigration bills fight for life in Florida

From Kenric Ward of Sunshine State News on Jan. 18:
Attacked by Hispanics and ridiculed by the mainstream media, Arizona-style immigration legislation appears to be dead on arrival in Tallahassee this year.

Meanwhile, a different approach that would give skittish Republicans political cover has emerged. The only question is: Will GOP leaders let it pass?

The Florida Citizens Employment Protection Act would mandate that all employers use the federal E-Verify program to screen prospective employees' legal status to work in this country. It also would suspend the business licenses of companies that refuse to sign an affidavit declaring they have no illegal aliens working for them.

Supporters say the Citizens Employment Protection Act avoids the legal and logistical pitfalls of racial profiling and turning local police into immigration agents. By targeting employers, the bill would effectively block illegals from the job market.

Gov. Rick Scott has already signed an executive order implementing E-Verify at all state agencies. Now, lawmakers are maneuvering to extend E-Verify to the private sector.

The E-Verify initiative is not new. Last year, the Florida House passed an E-Verify bill authored by then-Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Oviedo. HB 219 cleared the House 112-0, but was bottled up in the Senate, where committee Chairman Jeremy Ring refused to let it come up for a hearing.

Adams has moved on to Congress, but Ring, a Democrat from Margate, is back as committee chair this year, and supporters of E-Verify are bracing for battle.

"It's not a complicated issue. We cut off the jobs, and [illegal immigrants] won't come. And those who are here will leave," says Jack Oliver, head of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN).

But in addition to Ring, immigration-control advocates face pushback from the Hispanic Caucus, including some Republicans, who say enforcement efforts jeopardize the GOP's electoral chances with Latinos.


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