Senate quietly passes immigration billby Dara Kam | May 4th, 2011
With no debate, the Florida Senate quickly and quietly approved an immigration measure, keeping alive for now the issue the GOP-dominated legislature is unlikely to ultimately agree on.
The Senate measure, finalized yesterday after an emotional floor debate, would require work force boards to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of potential workers before referring them to employers and prohibit undocumented residents from receiving state or federal benefits. It would also allow nonviolent criminals to serve shorter sentences if they agree to be deported. And it would require law enforcement officers to make a “reasonable effort” to ascertain immigration status after someone has been arrested and detained.
The Senate approved the bill (SB 2040) by a 23-16 vote as dozens of immigrants and their children sat in the public gallery overlooking the chamber. The immigrants, a continuous presence in the Capitol who have stepped up pressure on lawmakers to abandon the issue over the past two weeks, left singing a song about freedom.
Despite the Senate’s action today, chances of the two chambers reaching agreement on the thorny issue remain close to nil.
House GOP leaders said they do not believe they have the votes to take up the Senate’s much weaker version of their proposal (HB 7089) that would require businesses to use E-Verify and give sheriffs, deputies and police officers the authority to ask for immigration documentation when they are pursuing a criminal investigation.