Immigration protests continue, Senate looks to ease up on biz, will hear bill Tuesdayby Dara Kam | May 2nd, 2011
Hundreds of immigrants continued their protests inside the Capitol on Monday as Senate GOP leaders craft reforms that would ease up on the House’s penalties against businesses that don’t use the E-verify system.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos said this afternoon that the Senate will take up and vote on its bill (SB 2040) tomorrow.
Before and after the Senate’s lunch break, immigrants – many of them children – and knelt in prayer outside the hallway leading into the back entrance to the chamber.
During the recess, they swarmed senators’ offices – including Palm Beach County’s Lizbeth Benacquisto’s – pleading with them to abandon their effots.
Senate budget chief JD Alexander, in charge of the chamber’s immigration package, has yet to release his proposal. During the lunch break, U.S. Sugar – one of the many agricultural businesses opposed to the reforms – lobbyist Robert Coker was inside Alexander’s office as immigrants lined the walls outside.
Alexander’s proposal is likely to include a modification of the House’s plan that would require businesses to use E-verify when hiring new employees and punishing those who do not use the federal system by yanking their licenses to do business in Florida. His plan include a fine for businesses that don’t comply with E-verify and take out the licensing provision, said Senate GOP leaders and business lobbyists working on the deal.
Last week, Alexander said he was leaning toward allowing law enforcement officers to request proof of immigration status after arrestees have been read their Miranda rights.
That’s still problematic, said Karen Woodall, a lobbyist for the immigrants, who she said are frustrated that the bills are stalled in both the House and Senate.
Many undocumented immigrants do not have drivers licenses, she said, and could be arrested for driving without them. The proposal could prompt more police officers to pull over Hispanic-looking drivers to check their licenses, keeping alive immigrants’ concerns about racial profiling.
With the business community, agricultural industry and church leaders opposed to the reforms and tea party activists intent on E-verify at a minimum, the push by GOP lawmakers is likely politically motivated, according to Woodall, a three-decade Capitol veteran. Many local officials – including the city of Lake Worth – also object to the proposals.
“Some people ran on this issue. They’re catering to a very narrow group of individuals that are vocal and losing sight of what is best for the state of Florida,” she said.