Senate immigration leader has serious reservations about reformsby Dara Kam | April 29th, 2011
Senate budget chief JD Alexander, a citrus farmer who’s now shepherding a developing immigration reform package, expressed his reservations about the push to deport illegal immigrants, many of whom have lived in the state for decades picking fruit and vegetables for his colleagues.
Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said he’s concerned about the fallout from the federal E-Verify program to check on potential employees, something Gov. Rick Scott has already initiated for state government workers and a component tea party activists are pushing lawmakers to pass.
“My personal struggle with E-Verify is that many of these folks have been here for decades for good or for bad,” he said.
In “a perfect world” the federal government would control the borders but instead has given tacit permission for illegal workers to remain in the country, Alexander said.
“It seems challenging to suddenly ask them to not be able to be here. I personally believe we need a federal guest program to allow for some sort of normalization of these folks status where they can be protected by our laws without fear of deportation,” he said. “Because some of these things have been going on for so long, I’m personally troubled by the broad net that could be cast.”
Alexander said he’s having a hard time balancing his duties as budget chief and agricultural baron as he tries to get his blueberry crop harvested.
“I’m probably short about 100 people to get my blueberries picked,” he said, adding that he and other blueberry farmers can find less than half the workers they need to get their crops in.
“For all the unemployment there just aren’t folks who want to pick blueberries,” he said.
The Senate is slated to take up its immigration package on Monday. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, had pledged that each bill would pass through at least three committees before being sent to the floor for a vote. But he reversed himself on the contentious immigration measure (SB 2040), which was heard in a single committee. Haridopolos also took the bill away from its sponsor, Sen. Anitere Flores, and gave it to Alexander this week. Flores, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami, refused to go along with the Arizona-style bill proposed by the House, sponsored by William Snyder, R-Stuart.
Hundreds of immigrants, including undocumented workers, and children whose parents have been deported have swarmed the Capitol over the past several weeks demanding that lawmakers abandon the immigration package.