© 2023 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Arizona-style Immigration bill won't be coming to Florida this year

By Regan McCarthy


Tallahassee, FL – One of the main planks in Florida Governor Rick Scott's campaign platform was illegal immigration an issue he pledged to crack down on, but Regan McCarthy reports, without calling a special session, it's a promise on which the governor likely won't make good.

The governor said earlier this week he felt optimistic legislators would "do the right thing" by the end of the regular session in regards to the controversial anti-immigration legislation despite a statement by the sponsor of the House proposal predicting the bill likely would not move forward this year. The sponsor, Republican Representative Will Snyder of Stuart says the Senators made too many changes in their version of the bill for members of the House to accept it. The changes made in the Senate watered the legislation down considerably. The governor and members of the House had hoped for stronger immigration rules, similar to those passed in Arizona. But Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Maria Rodriguez, says we'll never know the reason for the bill's failure.

"There's growing consensus from diverse sectors that this is not a solution, that this is not a way to move Florida forward for progress. That the exclusion and criminalizing the vital segments of our community are not a way to go."

What Rodriguez says she does know is that the hours left to pass the bill are dwindling making her think Scott would need to call a special session if he intends to force the issue an action Scott has indicated he doesn't expect to take and that Rodriguez says would be an irresponsible use of tax payer dollars. Moving forward Rodriguez says she and members of her group will be working to correct mis-information about immigration and to share stories about the people bills such as these could affect. Deputy Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition Isabel Vinent says often those most influenced are children.

"For them, they are Americans and they're being treated like second-class citizens because they are in constant fear of their mother or their father being deported. And who is going to provide for them? That fear, it really does a psychological trauma for these kids. It provokes that. And we can't deny it. These are American children. Reunification of families should be a right."

Vinent says she has been to Tallahassee, taking a bus from Palm Beach County almost 10 times since February, in an effort to speak out against the legislation. She says it's been exhausting, but she'd be willing to do it again.

"Until we address the root causes of immigration which is displacement because of foreign policy, because of economies that are unjust and unfair and unequal and that create exclusion and extreme policy, immigration is not going to stop. It's not going to stop with the border. That's just going to make more people be killed and be risking their lives. But I think we need solutions that are bigger and obviously enforcement and all these state-by-state solutions are not the key."

Those in support of the bill like Governor Scott have said state immigration crack downs and necessary because the federal system is broken.

"Our federal government should secure borders. They should have a logical immigration policy, but here in our state if somebody is violating our laws, we should be allowed to ask if they're legal or not."

Rodriguez says she doesn't buy the argument. She says we've seen a record number of deportations in the last year. Republic Senate President Mike Haridopolos says the discussion is a hard one no matter what side of the isle a person is coming from.

"I think every person in this room as a story about, whether it be their father in my case, or your grandparents, or your great great grandparents, like so many in this room. They wanted to come to American for freedom and opportunity, but also you come to American because you believe in the rule of law."

Senator J.D. Alexander who introduced the bill and says he know from personal experience the agriculture industry would be significantly hurt without immigrants agrees.

"It puts, quite frankly, many of us, many workers, many good people in a very awkward position."

The bill awaits an unexpected final approval from the House.