Immigration important in 2012 elections, not so much in Florida’s legislative session

By | 12.12.11 | 10:41 am

Rep. Connie Mack, R-Naples (Pic by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr)

While some news outlets reported over the weekend that immigration enforcement will be at the center of the 2012 election season, others say it will not play an important role during Florida’s upcoming 2012 legislative session.

“Anti-immigration rhetoric flared up on Florida’s 2010 campaign trail and became a winning wedge issue for Gov.Rick Scott, who used it to woo the tea party and help win election,” the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Sunday. ”But with the 2012 legislative session fast approaching, social issues such as immigration, abortion and welfare change are taking a back seat in the state capital.”

“I think that the top three issues will be job creation, a responsible budget that doesn’t raise taxes and reapportionment,” Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon told the paper. “And those things alone will occupy a huge amount of space during the process. Everything else — gaming, immigration, you name it — I would say is second to those three goals.”

The Orlando Sentinel reported Sunday that Everett Wilkinson, the chairman of the South Florida Tea Party, said Newt Gingrich’s “relatively moderate stance on immigration — securing the borders while granting legal status to long-standing foreign residents — puts off some conservatives but could help him in Florida, home to large immigrant communities.”

The Sentinel adds: “Gingrich, who has long courted Hispanic voters, is reaching out to those communities through a Spanish-language online newsletter called ‘Newt con nosotros’ (‘Newt is with us’).”

The conservative media outlet Newsmax wrote on Friday: “Immigration issues are getting traction from voters in the GOP presidential primary, surprising some in Washington who thought the sagging economy would overshadow it and other topics.” And: “The issue will likely remain hot in 2012 as the Republican candidates compete for votes in early-primary states like South Carolina and Florida.”

Newsmax adds: “Gingrich has distinguished himself from the candidates with a specific solution for the problem of what to do about the 11-14 million illegal immigrants now here, advocating for those who’ve lived in this country 25 years or more to be allowed to stay.”

Immigration has already come into play in Florida’s 2012 Senate election, which features several GOP candidates facing incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

GOP Senate candidate George LeMieux announced last week that he opposes a publicly funded, privately managed immigration detention center to built in South Florida.

Anna Nix, LeMieux’s press secretary, told The Florida Independent in an email last week:

George LeMieux voted against the DREAM Act while in the United States Senate. He also voted to enhance border security, deter illegal aliens from entering our country, and deny funds to cities that have sanctuary policies – all measures defeated by Bill Nelson and the Democratic majority. George has always believed that before anything can be done concerning illegal immigrants in this country, we must first secure our border. Once our border is secure, we can determine what to do with those illegally residing in America.

The News Press wrote Saturday that GOP Senate candidate Connie Mack, who leads in the polls, “famously attacked the controversial immigration law passed by Arizona in 2010,” adding that Mack “called the Arizona law’s requirement that police stop people on the suspicion that they might be in the country illegally reminiscent of Gestapo tactics. It was a brave stance, and it may end up serving Mack well with the state’s growing numbers of Hispanic voters for whom the Arizona law was anathema.”

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