The wave to replicate Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant bills that helped shape the political victories of several Republican candidates including Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, is biting into a sharp dose of reality in his home state.
Writing in the Sun Sentinel last week, columnist Aaron Deslatte recalls one of Scott’s tough-on-immigration campaign ads: “Rick Scott backs Arizona’s law; he’ll bring it to Florida and let our police check if the people they arrest are here legally. That’s common sense.”
But, now in office, Scott is finding it difficult to generate support for such a proposal from members of his own party.
The new Florida Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, a former Republican Congressman who grappled with immigration reform leading up to his last days in Congress last December says, “We are known as a diverse, welcoming state for international investors, international entrepreneurs … particularly from Latin America. We have to be very careful about messages we send explicitly and implicitly.”
Putnam argues that drawing comparisons between Florida’s current situation and Arizona’s problems is not fitting.
“Cutting and pasting the Arizona law is not what’s right for Florida,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Florida Senate opened hearings on whether to require police to check the immigration status of persons they have stopped, and whom they suspect may have entered the country illegally.
Afterward, one of the bill’s sponsors Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, backtracked and said the language in his own bill might be too harsh.
Another initiative that is not new, but is also on the table this year is the Florida Citizens Employment Protection Act, which would mandate that all employers use the federal E-Verify program to screen prospective employees’ legal status to work in this country. Under the proposal, those companies that refuse to sign an affidavit declaring they have no undocumented persons working for them could have their business licenses suspended.
According to the Sunshine News, supporters say the bill avoids the legal and logistical pitfalls of racial profiling and turning local police into immigration agents. The bill would block undocumented persons from the job market by directly targeting employers.
Gov. Rick Scott has already signed an executive order implementing E-Verify at all state agencies, but has backed off of a proposal to extend a requirement to usethe program to the private sector.
Business organizations ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Florida’s agriculture industry claim that restrictions on the flow of cheap labor would devastate the domestic economy and send prices soaring.