The Florida House Judiciary Committee passed its version of an Arizona-style immigration bill Thursday. The measure would give local law enforcement the authority to question someone’s immigration status during arrests or investigations of other crimes.
State Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, the lead architect of the bill (PCB JDC 11-01), said it would limit “Papers, please” scenarios, because, unlike Arizona’s law, it does not allow police to demand proof of citizenship on more mundane occasions, like during traffic stops.
The bill would also require employers to use E-Verify to make sure new hires are authorized to work in the country.
The Senate has proposed a different bill, spearheaded by Anitere Flores, R-Miami. That bill, which calls for state and local governments to form agreements with federal immigration authorities and also requires E-Verify, is set to be discussed on Monday.
Snyder said if his bill had any constitutional issues, they would likely stem from “pre-emption” — a problem raised during hearings Flores led in the Senate. Arizona’s law is being challenged in federal court because it creates new standards for immigration enforcement, which under the U.S. Constitution is reserved for the federal government, meaning state immigration laws are pre-empted by federal standards.
A staff analysis of the House bill notes:
The provisions relating to employment verification and checking the legal status of one who is the subject of a criminal investigation may face similar legal challenges under the federal preemption doctrine.
Business groups still have some concerns about the bill. Some want changes to the E-Verify provisions, for example. Snyder said he’s open to making a few small changes.
Snyder said his bill is intended to address a human-rights issue. Undocumented workers forced to “live in the shadows” are among the most vulnerable people in America. They can’t claim worker’s compensation, unemployment benefits, or other government services. They carry cash because they can’t access the banking system, which makes them vulnerable to criminals — but they’re often afraid to call the police because they aren’t here legally.
“The toll on our psyche as Americans should be enormous,” he said.
Allowing that system to remain in place because it’s economically expedient is the same argument once used to keep an entire race of people in chains, he said, without explicitly mentioning slavery. “It turns my stomach to hear that argument.”