State Reps. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, and Darren Soto, D-Orlando, requested Wednesday that state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, be removed from the Senate Committee on Reapportionment because of his recent statement that “many Hispanic-speaking people in Florida … are not legal.”

Hays said:

Before we design a district anywhere in the state of Florida for Hispanic voters, we need to ascertain that they are citizens of the United States. We all know there are many Hispanic-speaking people in Florida that are not legal. And I just don’t think it’s right that we try to draw a district that encompasses people that really have no business voting anyhow.

Soto’s letter to Senate President Mike Haridopolis states, “I am writing to request that Senator Alan Hays be removed from the Committee on Reapportionment. This removal is requested based upon several anti-Hispanic statements made by Senator Hays during the October 18th Reapportionment Committee meeting.”

Soto adds: “As a result of these statements, I have serious concern that our community will receive fair redistricting hearings while Senator Hays continues to serve on the committee.”

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, “Orange County, where Orlando is located,” has a “Hispanic voting population (.pdf) of 166,000 or 11 percent of the state’s Latino electorate. Two-thirds are of Puerto Rican origins. Latinos account for 14 percent of the county’s voters.”

Cruz, who had already protested Hays’ comments, writes in her latest letter to Haridopolis that “more than a week has gone by since Senator Hays made his offensive comments towards central Florida’s Hispanics, and despite several concerns by both Republicans and Democrats, you have not acted.”

She adds, “On behalf of the Hispanic citizens of Florida, I am respectfully reiterating my request that Senator Alan Hays be removed or resigned from the Senate Reapportionment Committee.”

State Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami wrote in a followup letter Monday to Haridopolis and House Speaker Dean Cannon that he is “deeply concerned that as you prepare for this week’s Redistricting meetings, where Southeast Florida, home to Florida’s largest Hispanic population, will be the focus of discussions, that the uncalled for remarks by Sen. Hays against Hispanics remains unresolved.”

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