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Rubio on his speech, immigration, Charlie Crist and the joy of being a home state boy

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

After a brief sound check onstage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was crushed by a media scrum anxious to hear the GOP rising star wax on about everything from Charlie Crist’s endorsement of President Barack Obama to how to address immigration.

Rubio, Florida’s Republican U.S. senator who grew up in Miami, will introduce Mitt Romney tomorrow night at the Republican National Convention, a primo spot second only to the presidential candidate’s acceptance speech itself.

Rubio said his job is to make clear to the millions of television viewers during his prime-time speech the choices between the two candidates and the role of government in people’s lives.

“This election is about the choice the country has about the role government should play in our country. And really that is what this choice is going to be about. It’s not a choice between a Democrat and a Republican simply. It’s a choice about much more than that. So tomorrow, my job is to introduce the next president of the united states and to do so in a way that makes It clear to people what their choice is.
It’s a great honor,” Rubio said.

Rubio will also talk about his experience as the son of Cuban immigrants, something he does with an earnestness that has made him one of the most popular Republican politicians in the country. Rubio was on Romney’s short-list for veep before the former Massachusetts governor settled on U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

When asked what’s different about his tomorrow-night speech, Rubio laughed.

“I don’t know. Thirty-nine million people, probably. Look, it’s a tremendous honor to be able to give this speech in my home state in front of a lot of family and friends,” he said, mentioning his mother and late father.
“It will be affirmation that their lives matter. That all the sacrifices and hard work they went through was worth something…It’s just an honor to be able to introduce the next president of the U.S. and to do so in a way that I hope will make clear the choice that we have and the difference between the two men.”

Rubio blamed complaints that the Romney campaign hadn’t done enough to reach out to Hispanic voters on the campaign’s limited resources and said the pace would pick up in the general election cycle .

Read what Rubio said about immigration, Charlie Crist and Paul Ryan after the jump.
(more…)

Jeb Bush says GOP must change it’s “tone” to draw Hispanic voters

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Sunday that the Republican Party must reduce its tough, anti-immigration rhetoric and policies if it hopes to draw Hispanic voters to its ranks.

Mitt Romney’s economic message has some appeal, Bush said. But he was tempered in his assessments of the GOP’s prospects of doing well with Hispanic voters this fall

“I think Gov. Romney can make inroads if he focuses on how can we create a climate of job creation and economic growth,” Bush said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “And that’s what I think this fall’s campaign will be about. I think people will move back toward the Republican side.

“But we’ve got to have a better tone going forward over the long haul, for sure,” Bush said. “You can’t ask people to join your cause and then send a signal that you’re really not wanted. It just doesn’t work.”

About his own White House ambitions, Bush demurred.

“You know, I don’t think about it,” Bush said. “I’m not motivated by it. It takes an incredible amount of discipline and ambition to even think about aspiring to it. And I’m not there yet in my life.”

Bush repeated, however, his earlier view that 2012 would’ve been a good time for him to run.

“It wasn’t the right time for me,” Bush said. “I’m excited about supporting Mitt Romney.”

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down key portions of Arizona immigration law

Monday, June 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Supreme Court struck down key portions of Arizona’s controversial illegal immigration law, handing a partial victory to President Obama’s administration.

The majority ruled that that giving state or local law enforcement the power to detain and question people could result in “unnecessary harassment.”

The Arizona law (SB 1070) would have given law enforcement the power to detain and question the immigration status of someone they believed was in the country illegally. The court ruled that immigration matters are strictly a federal function. The Arizona law would have required police to check the immigration status of anyone who is arrested.

“Under state law, officers who believe an alien is removable by reason of some ‘public offense’ would have the power to conduct an arrest on that basis regardless of whether a federal warrant has issued or the alien is likely to escape,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 5-3 opinion.

“This would allow the State to achieve its own immigration policy. The result could be unnecessary harassment of some aliens (for instance, a veteran, college student, or someone assisting with a criminal investigation) whom federal officials determine should not be removed,” the ruling reads. “This is not the system Congress created.”

The court did uphold one of the most controversial portions of the law, that requires local law enforcement officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.

The justices also said that provision, however, could be subject to additional legal challenges. Civil liberties groups are challenging that portion of the law in Arizona courts, arguing that it could lead to racial profiling.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined Kennedy and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor in the majority. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito concurred in part and dissented in part. Justice Elena Kagan, who served as Obama’s solicitor general, had recused herself from the Arizona case.

Immigration tops Rick Scott’s legislative priority list

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Immigration is at the top of Gov. Rick Scott’s legislative priorities when lawmakers reconvene in January, the first-term governor told Northwest Florida conservative radio talk show host Burnie Thompson today.

Lawmakers failed to reach agreement on any immigration proposals during the session that ended in May.

“We should have done an immigration bill. The federal government should be securing our borders. They should have a logical, national immigration policy, a good work visa program policy. But if people are in our state illegally we should be able to ask them if they’re legal or not if they’re doing something wrong and violating our laws. That’s one thing we ought to be doing,” Scott told Thompson, a talk show host on Panama City Beach’s WYOO 101.1 FM.

Other Scott priorities include property and auto insurance reform and restricting how school districts spend money, he said.

Scott, who spends part of his days reaching out to corporate leaders and encouraging them to set up shop in the Sunshine State, challenged all Floridians to follow his lead. Scott has pledged to create 700,000 in seven years.

“I want everybody in this state to call somebody and say, ‘Look why don’t you move your company here?’ Any feelers they get give my office a call because I’ll make the phone call with them to make it happen. We have 19 million people in our state. If all of us get active on economic development, everybody in this state will have an opportunity for a job,” he said.

Read what Scott said about insurance and education after the jump.
(more…)

Senate president drops by press gallery: Nelson’s old and Scott’s a rock

Friday, May 6th, 2011 by Dara Kam

As the Senate began debating the budget in anticipation of a vote late this evening, President Mike Haridopolos dropped into the press gallery to chat with reporters at the close of the 60-day legislative session.

Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, boasted that he’s achieved the goals he set out at the onset of the 60-day legislative session: a balanced budget, no new taxes, Medicaid reform, and passing “Smart Cap,” the proposed constitutional amendment limiting how much government can spend he’s championed for 11 years.

The result is “hopefully that people will be able to see Florida as a business-friendly state,” he said. “That was my goal and I’m happy to report on the final day of session we met those goals.”

But cutting $3.6 billion from the state budget without raising taxes and creating sweeping new policies on Medicaid, education and pensions wasn’t easy, Haridopolos said, .

“This was a very difficult year, a very trying year in many cases,” he said.

The biggest – if not only – issue left undone is immigration, Haridopolos said. The Senate passed its measure but House Speaker Dean Cannon said the proposal is dead because it doesn’t go far enough for the super-majority of his 120 members needed to take it up.

Haridopolos said he hoped the House would consider what he called solid, common-sense legislation that would deport criminals after their sentences are served and would have required anyone receiving state or federal benefits be a legal resident of the state.

“Too often politicians operate through bumper stickers,” Haridopolos said. “This is what the legislative process is about…
It’s not just a public opinion poll that says do this. We’ll come back next year with more information.”

Asked how much influence Gov. Rick Scott – who Senate budget chief JD Alexander said earlier should take a “victory lap” – had on the session, Haridopolos said: “He was a rock” because “you knew he was not going to raise taxes” and would veto any measures that did.

The Senate president, also running for U.S. Senate in the GOP primary, took a couple of campaign-related questions as well.

Democrats are using a coloring book based on the single-copy book Haridopolos wrote and was paid more than $150K for as a fundraising tool on the last day of session.

Haridopolos shrugged it off and even signed a copy for Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo.

“Welcome to the NFL. I guess I’m in the NFL now and I’m playing on the field. Look, it says something if they’re constantly attacking me. So I must be doing something they don’t like if they spend so much time and attention on me,” Haridopolos said.

Then came a little bashing of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“I think the contrast is pretty darn clear between me and Bill Nelson. Bill Nelson’s been in office since I was two years old.
And other than getting a ride on the shuttle, name me something major in this building, in Washington, D.C., that he has accomplished since I was two years old,” the 41-year-old said. “I like to think I get things done. He’s a person who holds a press conference….a press conference is not legislation.”

UPDATE: As immigrants stage all-night vigil, Haridopolos urges House to pass Senate immigration bill

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Rep. William Snyder insisted late Wednesday night the Senate plan is a no-go in the House. “I think it’s thoroughly impossible,” Snyder said. Even if he had the two-thirds votes to take up the measure – which he said he does not – he likely wouldn’t because it’s nowhere near the comprehensive change he supports.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos urged the Florida House to take up and pass his chamber’s immigration proposal despite House GOP leaders’ insistence that the issue is off the table.

“This is an issue we’ve talked about for almost a decade. I would trust the House to take up that bill,” the Merritt Island Republican who is running for U.S. Senate told reporters late this evening. “I think it’s the right thing to do…I’d like to see them do it. These are common-sense items I think everybody would agree with.”

The Senate plan is too weak for conservative Republicans in the House and too strident for Democrats to get the two-thirds votes needed to consider the measure, according to Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, the House plan’s sponsor.

(more…)

Senate quietly passes immigration bill

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 by Dara Kam

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.

Fact check: Would E-Verify have prevented 9/11?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 by Dara Kam

An Arizona-style immigration law is off the table in Florida, and any immigration overhaul is likely doomed, GOP lawmakers said yesterday after the Senate killed a watered-down E-Verify amendment.

During debate on the amendment, its sponsor John Thrasher argued that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks may have been avoided had the federal verification system been in effect at the time.

“I want to remind everyone in here that 10 of the 19 terrorists who attacked our country, directed by Osama bin Laden in doing that, lived in the state of Florida. I wish we would have had the E-Verify system … we might have saved the lives of 3,000 Americans,” Thrasher, a St. Petersburg Republican and one-time House speaker who recently served as the Republican Party of Florida chairman.

Thrasher prefaced his comments by asserting he wasn’t being “overly dramatic” but was he?

The St. Petersburg Times PolitiFact gave Thrasher’s assertion a “Pants on Fire” rating:

“Hijackers did live in Florida and obtain Florida driver’s licenses. But in order to potentially be flagged by the E-Verify system, they would have had to work in the state. There is no record that any of them ever tried to get jobs here. And as such, E-Verify — had it been used by Florida employers as Thrasher wanted — wouldn’t have found them or stopped their plotting. We rate this claim Pants on Fire!”

Senate GOP leader: E-Verify might have saved lives of 9/11 victims

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate came closer to finalizing its immigration reforms after killing an amendment proposed by powerful Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher.

Thrasher’s plan would have fined businesses that hired workers in the country illegally but would not have required business owners to use the federal E-Verify system.

Trying to convince senators to support his amendment, Thrasher implied that the 9/11 terrorist attacks might not have happened nearly a decade ago if Florida had the E-Verify system in place.

“I will remind everybody in here that 10 of the 19 terrorists that attacked our country that were directed by Osama bin Laden to do that lived in the state of Florida. I wish we had had an E-Verify system because some of them were working. We might have saved the lives of 3,000 Americans,” said Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, a former House Speaker who also recently served as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

The Senate killed the amendment by a 23-16 vote after more than an hour, including a heartfelt speech by JD Alexander, the Senate’s immigration reform architect.

Alexander, a citrus farmer who also raises blueberries, crafted a measure that, among other things, would essentially exempt agricultural businesses like his from having to verify workers’ immigration status.

But he objected to Thrasher’s amendment after saying he could not find enough legal immigrants – or other workers – to pick his blueberry crop during the season that ended this week and expressing frustration that the federal government’s inaction on the issue was forcing state lawmakers to acting because of political pressure from tea party activists.

“Quit all these one-sided political arguments,” said Alexander, who is term-limited out of office next year. “I don’t believe it’s the right thing to do. The federal government should stop it tomorrow without a doubt. But we’re not talking about that…This is not our problem and we’re having this problem put on our shoulders and I resent it. And I resent it because we’re asked to choose between hard-working people and somebody’s uninformed knowledge” of illegal immigration.

Senate immigration update: E-Verify, biz fines, boycotts now in the mix

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate Rule Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, filed an amendment to the immigration bill (SB 2040) that would fine businesses up to $1,500 for each unauthorized worker hired after July 1, 2012.

Thrasher’s amendment would not force business owners to use the federal E-Verify system – which could cost up to $60 per hiree for small businesses – but would fine those who hire undocumented workers $500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second and $1,500 after that.

Thrasher’s amendment also would force state agencies to use E-Verify before hiring new employees, something Gov. Rick Scott has done for current state workers.

Meanwhile, national groups are threatening to boycott Florida as they did Arizona if lawmakers approve legislation they deem would be a vehicle for racial profiling. The legislature’s Hispanic caucus also came out in opposition to the reforms today.

Left-leaning organizers, moveon.org, held a telephone conference this morning warning they are mobilizing boycotts and voter registration drives. They said the Arizona boycotts cost that state hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Our members in Florida and around the country are watching the legislature very closely today,” said Moveon.org executive director Justin Ruben. “Our members will take their business and their tourism dollars elsewhere.”

The Senate is slated to take up Senate budget chief JD Alexander’s proposed immigration reform today as Friday’s end to the legislative session approaches. Alexander, a farmer, filed a proposal that would essentially exempt the agricultural industry from the reforms but includes a variety of other measures that would make it easier to deport criminals who are in the country illegally after their sentences are complete. They could also serve reduced sentences if they agree not to fight deportation.

The House’s version, sponsored by Stuart Republican William Snyder, goes much farther and would allow law enforcement officials to request documentation if the individual is the subject of a criminal investigation. Snyder’s proposal (HB 7089) would also require that all businesses use E-Verify.

Senate leader files immigration amendment, no E-Verify

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate budget chief-turned-immigration reformer JD Alexander filed a strike-all amendment this morning that would require work boards to check the immigration status of applicants but lacks any requirement that businesses use the federal E-Verify system to ensure hirees are in the country legally.

Alexander, a Republican farmer from Lake Wales, crafted the amendment to essentially leave the agricultural community out of the reforms because the vast majority of farm workers do not use the work centers to seek jobs.

The absence of the E-Verify requirement is a victory for the business community but puts the two chambers at odds: The House plan (HB 7089) includes E-Verify and the ability for law enforcement to request documentation of immigration status during criminal investigations.

In contrast, Alexander’s amendment, expected to be offered today, would require law enforcement officials to “make a reasonable effort” to ascertain immigration status after someone has been arrested.

Immigration advocates, who’ve thronged the Capitol for months and held daily press conferences pleading with lawmakers to
drop the reforms, had pushed for post-conviction rather than post-arrest checks of immigration. They contend the post-arrest component is problematic because driving without a drivers license, which some undocumented immigrants do, is a vehicle for racial profiling.

Immigration protests continue, Senate looks to ease up on biz, will hear bill Tuesday

Monday, May 2nd, 2011 by Dara Kam

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.

(more…)

Senate immigration leader has serious reservations about reforms

Friday, April 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

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.

No Senate session Saturday, immigration still hanging

Friday, April 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate scrubbed a rare Saturday meeting scheduled to take up a Medicaid overhaul and possibly immigration reform.

Before breaking for lunch after the morning floor session, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said told his members that he is “going to give you a little bit of a break before you come back to work on Monday.”

That puts off until at least Monday the Senate’s discussion of immigration reform as Senate budget chief JD Alexander grapples with crafting a proposal he can sell to a chamber divided on the issue, let alone to the Florida House that wants an Arizona-style package. Yesterday, Haridpolos, R-Merritt Island, assured reporters that the Senate would vote on the issue before the session ends on May 6.

Sen. Anitere Flores, the Cuban-American Republican from Miami initially shepherding the Senate’s immigration plan until Haridopolos gave it to Alexander this week, summed up the difficulty.

“This is a severely complicated, complex issue where there are hundreds of different people that have hundreds of different opinions,” she said. “There are employment provisions. There are law enforcement provisions. There are business owner provisions. And there are just individual human emotions. There are political considerations. All those considerations are all there. To try and make that into a bill that you can get a majority of votes on in the House and the Senate is a problem.”

Immigrants, many of them undocumented, children of parents who have been deported, students in the country illegally and their advocates have thronged the Capitol pleading with lawmakers to abandon immigration reform as the clock winds down on the legislative session.

Senate Saturday session includes Medicaid, immigration still on hold

Thursday, April 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

As budget talks on health and human services appropriations stalled, the Senate is moving forward with its Medicaid overhaul. Senate GOP leaders have not scheduled the immigration bill for Saturday, although only two hours of notice are required to add it to the agenda.

The Senate will take up its proposal (SB 1972) on Saturday along with dozens of local bills and Senate confirmations of Gov. Rick Scott’s appointees. But no word yet on whether the chamber will address immigration reform, still in flux as Senate Budget Chief J.D. Alexander, now shepherding the bill (SB 2040), weighs his options.

The House and Senate are both looking to put most of the state’s 2.9 million Medicaid patients into HMO-style plans. But differences abound between the two approaches. The Senate would divide the state into 19 regions, based on state court circuits; the House proposes eight.

The chambers are far apart on immigration reform as well. The House’s Arizona-style plan is on hold as the Senate considers a more moderate approach.
(more…)

Immigration reform uncertain as advocates keep up pressure

Thursday, April 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Lake Worth City Commissioner Chris McVoy joined immigrants in the Capitol rotunda Thursday afternoon to urge lawmakers to abandon immigration reform even as the developing Senate bill remains in limbo.

The city commission this week reaffirmed its opposition to any Arizona-style bill like the one proposed by the Florida House (HB 7089).

McVoy said the local officials object to the bill for humanitarian and financial reasons as well as concerns about public safety.

An Arizona-style bill could have a devastating economic impact because Lake Worth has so many Hispanic residents, McVoy said.

“These folks work. They spend money in the community. They pay taxes in the community,” said McVoy, who was elected in November.

The House package would allow law enforcement officials to request proof of immigration status during routine traffic stops, something that could be a huge financial burden to the city, McVoy said. And it could threaten the relationship police officers have with the Latino community whose members would be more disinclined to report crimes if the measure becomes law, he said.

McVoy and others said they want the bill to include a pathway to citizenship similar to the guestworker program recently adopted in Utah.

A fiscal analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress found the immigration reforms could cost up the state and businesses up to $45 billion, including $1 billion in implementation costs. (more…)

Senate in session on Saturday, no budget committee today

Thursday, April 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate will be in session on Saturday, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said.

Haridopolos has ordered the rare weekend session to try to finish up work before the scheduled end of the legislative session next Friday.

“We want to give everyone the opportunity on a bill to have their voice heard. I think that’s worked out very well for us. It’s reduced a lot of the tension,” said Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.

Haridopolos, who is running for U.S. Senate, said that lawmakers would be in town anyway as they negotiate differences between the two chambers’ budgets and other priority bills.

“It just makes sense that we would have a Saturday session and make the best use our time since we’re all going to be here anyway,” he said.

Adding to the delay is a postponement to a Senate Budget Committee meeting where an immigration package hangs in the balance as GOP leaders from the House and Senate try to work out a deal with Gov. Rick Scott before taking a floor vote.

That meeting won’t meet today, Haridopolos said, but could meet tomorrow, making it possible the Senate could take up its immigration proposal on Saturday.

No Senate budget meeting leaves immigration, Citizens in limbo

Thursday, April 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate is supposed to hold a budget meeting today to take up four controversial items – an overhaul of Citizens Property Insurance, immigration reform and two abortion measures.

Senate rules require a four hour notice before the meeting can be held. With no notice yet, senators are still trying to work out deals on the contentious insurance and immigration issues.

The possibility of a committee meeting is “looking doubtful right now,” Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ spokesman David Bishop said in an e-mail.

Immigrants stage sit-in in Senate prez office

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Clad in black caps and gowns, a handful of college students are sitting it out in Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ waiting room trying to get him to promise to oppose immigration reform.

They may have a long wait, however.

Haridopolos’ spokesman David Bishop said the president is too busy during the last few days of the legislative session to meet again with the immigrants and their advocates. Yesterday, Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, made an impromptu visit with dozens of Palm Beach County immigrants, including children, who pleaded with him to publicly denounce the House and Senate plans to crack down on illegal immigration.

The student sit-in is part of an all-out push to convince lawmakers to drop immigration reform before the session ends on May 6.

St. Thomas University student Felipe Matos, an undocumented immigrant from Brazil and one of the leaders of the group, said he and his cohorts would stay as long as the building was open.

“We’re going to stay seated. We’re not here to confront anyone,” Matos said as Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Donald Severance cleared the room of those sitting on the floor.

Matos is trying to get Haridopolos to sign a pledge to oppose HB 7089 and SB 2040. Both bills are currently stalled as lawmakers await Gov. Rick Scott’s input on the measures. Scott has said he wants to give law enforcement officers the ability to ask for proof of immigration but has not elaborated on how far he thinks the law should go. Scott is expected to reveal more about his plans today.

Haridopolos, who removed the doors to his inner office after assuming the helm of the Senate as a symbol of his openness, won’t sign the pledge, Bishop said.

“This is a symbol that he’s against us,” said Matos.

National immigrant advocates issued a press release calling for a boycott of Florida unless the bills are abandoned, Matos said.

“We want to make sure Florida doesn’t get seen as anti-Latino, anti-employment. This is a job killer,” he said.

Benacquisto and Palm Beach County immigrant women shed tears over domestic violence

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Dozens of immigrants from Palm Beach County, accompanied by their children and grandchildren, got on a bus in Lake Worth at 11 p.m. to travel to the Capitol as part of a week-long effort by hundreds of immigrants now swarming the Capitol.

The immigrants, their children and advocates are pleading with lawmakers to abandon an Arizona-like immigration reform now under consideration in both the House and Senate.

More than a dozen women and children met with Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, for nearly 30 minutes. Both the women and the senator emerged in tears.

Leonila, an undocumented restaurant worker from Mexico who lives in West Palm Beach, shared her story with Benacquisto. The mother of five, who would not give her last name, told the senator that she was a domestic violence victim who fears that women like her will be even more afraid to get help after they are sexually or physically abused.

“One doesn’t have to think too hard about how that would affect me,” said Benacquisto, who during her campaign last year disclosed that she was raped at the age of 19.

Benacquisto pledged to work with the sponsors of the bill (SB 2040) to include provisions for women who are domestic violence or sexual abuse victims.

“Any victim who needs to ask for assistance at that time needs to have the confidence they can go to someplace safe,” Benacquisto said.

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