Participants in the GOP Hispanic Leadership Network Conference that took place late last week in Coral Gables did not mention immigration enforcement laws that mimic Arizona’s controversial S.B. 1070 that have been sponsored by Florida Republicans. GOP opposition to those bills seems to be growing, with one Republican state senator saying the laws were created for “racist reasons.”
According to Think Progress:
While speakers pointed to possible areas of solidarity between the GOP and Latinos, one topic of discussion was notably absent from the event: widespread Republican support for SB-1070 type bills.
Even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who expressed concern in the past that his Mexican-American wife and their children “might look awfully suspicious to police” if they were in Phoenix, did not make mention of the SB-1070 elephant in the room during the conference.
Florida Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and state Rep William Snyder, R-Stuart, have sponsored bills that mimic Arizona’s immigration enforcement S.B. 1070.
Addressing Snyder’s bill, state Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican and majority whip, told Think Progress:
I think that the biggest issue of that bill, while I believe we are a nation of laws and a nation of laws that must be respected, the biggest problem with that bill was the reason that it came about was for, in my opinion and the opinion of several others, for racist reasons, to be very blunt. And that’s the biggest issue that I have with it. Now will I agree that we must enforce our laws? It’s not something that a state can do on its own. I do understand why states are frustrated.
Number one, there’s very little the state governments can do. And number two, the immigrant population, both legal and illegal, offer so much to this country and particularly to our state here, that we cannot give even the perception that we are a state that is not welcome to Hispanics. We’re not going to do that in the Senate and so I guess if we’re not going to do it in the Senate, it’s not going to happen in the state. [Emphasis in original.]
This week, state Rep. Steve Bovo, R-Miami, told The Florida Independent he would not support any bill that would lead Florida down the path of a police state.
Florida Gov Rick Scott, the event’s keynote speaker at this event, has been a strong supporter of Arizona-type immigration law for Florida.
The Republicans who gathered at the posh Biltmore Hotel for the newly formed Hispanic Leadership Network generally support a broad reform of the immigration system, one that includes some means for legalizing the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants. The organizers included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez – two leading Republican voices for a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
But they are not part of the dominant wing in the Republican Party, which has embraced an enforcement-first, no-legalization-under-any-circumstances position in recent years – a shift that the conference organizers say has hampered the party’s outreach to Hispanics.
Yet there was little direct challenge to the party’s rightward drift on immigration.
But Politico did report that Bush told conference participants:
“If you believe in the conservative philosophy as I do it would be incredibly stupid over the long haul to ignore the burgeoning Hispanic vote,” Bush said. “They will be the swing voters in the swing states. … So if we want to elect a center-right president of the United States, it seems to me that you should be concerned about places like New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, Texas – places [where], but for the Hispanic vote, elections are won or lost.”