The groups involved in the immigration debate unfolding now in the Florida legislature seem to agree on one thing: The laws proposed in Florida are a response to inaction at the federal level.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami, said the state should not be setting its own immigration-enforcement standards. What’s needed, he said, is comprehensive immigration reform.

Also Monday, Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida told the Senate Judiciary Committee that reform should come from the federal level. During a series of fact-finding hearings held by the Senate before this session began, representatives from the business community, including Associated Industries, said they didn’t want a “patchwork” of regulations that varied from state to state.

Judi Hood, a tea party supporter from Manatee County, said a patchwork is already developing. Georgia is preparing to pass its own immigration-enforcement measures.

Like the laws proposed in Florida, Georgia’s reforms include E-Verify provisions that supporters say will make it harder for unauthorized immigrants to find work.

Hood said that could trigger mass “self-deportation” of unauthorized immigrants, and if Florida doesn’t pass its own enforcement measures, “they’re going to head south because we’re going to welcome them with open arms.”

The New York Times recently reported that immigration-enforcement measures are stalling in many states amid opposition by business groups, but advancing in some places, especially those with strong Republican majorities.

Will a wave of crackdown measures, spreading state by state across the Sun Belt, pressure the federal government to take up reform? The difficulty is on display here. How can we reconcile the conflicting demands of business groups, human rights advocates and tea parties and other groups calling for stronger enforcement?

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