House committee passes Arizona-lite immigration billby Dara Kam | March 10th, 2011
A House committee approved a somewhat watered-down immigration bill that would allow law enforcement officials to demand proof of citizenship during an arrest or criminal investigation and require businesses to verify that employees are in the country legally.
Judiciary Committee Chairman William Snyder, R-Stuart, sponsored the bill (PCB JDC 11-01) included several concessions to business groups and others concerned that an Arizona-style measure, among other things, would scare off tourists.
Unlike Arizona’s law, police would not be allowed to request documentation during traffic stops but would be permitted to request papers during criminal investigations or arrests or if they have a “reasonable suspicion” someone may be engaging in criminal activity.
But the modifications of Snyder’s original proposal did not appease opponents.
“I’m not sure what the motivation is around immigrant scapegoating,” said Maria Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. This is not going to generate new economic activity in Florida. In fact it’s going to hurt us. Perception is reality. This bill is being seen as an attack on Latinos, as an attack on many of us.”
Business groups were disappointed with the requirement that they use E-Verify when hiring new workers to prove they are in the country legally because, they said, they could be legally liable if the system makes a mistake.
In his closing remarks, Snyder insisted the bill is the right thing to do for the 820,000 undocumented workers in Florida who “live in the shadows” and don’t have access to unemployment or workers’ compensation benefits.
And he rejected arguments that his proposal would harm farmers who rely on the workers for seasonal help.
“The question boils down to this. Do we as a state say that we can acquiesce, wink-wink, nod-nod, it’s against the law to be here but we need people to pick our tomatoes? That turns my stomach when I hear that argument. Who will pick our tomatoes. Who will mow our lawns. There was a period in American history and I won’t even call it out to hold an entire race off people in bondage and the argument was the same,” Snyder said.
The committee voted 12-6 along party lines in favor of the measure.