With Governor-elect Rick Scott and a strong Republican majority in the Florida legislature, a push for an Arizona-style immigration enforcement law in Florida seems certain.
Florida Election Watch indicates that 28 of 40 members in the Florida Senate and 81 of 120 in the Florida House are Republicans. That gives Republican legislators a veto-proof majority, in addition to the state’s all-GOP cabinet and a Republican governor.
During his campaign, Scott was vocal about supporting immigrant enforcement legislation. “The legislature should bring the Arizona immigration law here to Florida,” Scott said in a campaign radio ad. “Now.”
According to the Immigration Policy Center, S.B. 1070 “requires state and local law enforcement agencies to check the immigration status of individuals it encounters and makes it a state crime for noncitizens to fail to carry proper immigration documentation.”
The law went into effect in late July after a federal judge blocked some of its more controversial provisions.
According to Subhash Kateel of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Scott’s Miami campaign office last week refused to accept a petition that stated, “We need clarity about the policies each of our candidates would propose if they are elected Governor and what effect those policies would have on the hardworking immigrants that have helped make our state what it is.”
Scott has allies in the legislature. State Rep. Willliam Snyder, R-Stuart, already announced a drafted immigration bill that mimics Arizona’s S.B. 1070 and would obligate local law enforcement agencies to inquire about a person’s immigration status during a routine stop.
Snyder’s bill includes “a provision allowing Canadians and Western Europeans to be ‘presumed to be legally in the United States,’ even though other non-citizens must carry papers.”
In July, state Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, and state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, also proposed legislation modeled after Arizona’s S.B. 1070.
State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, told The Florida Independent in July that he would introduce legislation based on the Arizona law during the 2011 session, and state Rep Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, also supported an Arizona-type law in Florida during his campaign.
“I expect there will be an effort to pass an S.B. 1070-type law and several anti-immigrant bills,” says Jonathan Fried, the director of We Count, a community and workers’ organization located in Homestead. “I would hope sensible members of the Republican Party understand what this would do to the state and their party. In the long term, they would be the anti-Latino party.”
Fried says an S.B. 1070 law in Florida would have a “disastrous impact” on tourism and labor and would lead to “racial profiling” of residents.
“We’ve had pro-immigrant governors and Cuban-American legislators,” Fried adds, citing Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. “Now we have an anti-immigrant governor and legislators.”
With the small number of Democrats in Tallahassee, Fried says there is little real opposition to an Arizona-style law. “I hope African-American and Latino legislators will step up and oppose this bill,” Fried says.