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Latino Daily News

Sunday May 8, 2011

Florida’s Anti-immigration Bills Are Dead As Session Ends

Florida’s Anti-immigration Bills Are Dead As Session Ends

Photo: Florida Immigration

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On Florida,  anti-immigration bills, SB 2040 and HB 7098, died as the legislative session winds to an end in Florida.

The Miami Herald has the obituary:

The fierce fight to crack down on illegal immigration ended — for this year — in the Florida Legislature on Friday when House and Senate lawmakers reached the end of the 60-day session without an agreement.

State senators signed off on their more lenient proposal on Wednesday. But by then, it was too late for the House to take up the measure.

SB 2040 and HB 7098 allowed police to act as immigration officials and verify the immigration status of people they take into custody. The bills also required employers to corroborate job applicants’ immigration status through the federal e-verify program. These controversial bills were met with much opposition by different sectors of the community leaving Florida legislators in a very vulnerable position.

Florida legislators have been under tremendous pressure and scrutiny this past week after the Latino community, business and agriculture industries and immigration rights advocates all came out in strong opposition to the bills and demanded the bills be stopped. Florida’s economy can’t afford an immigration law, much less an anti-immigrant law. The unintended consequences to a state that relies heavily on tourism and investment would be devastating. 

On April 20th immigrant rights advocates began running ads against Latino members of the state legislature that supported these immigration bills. The ads aired on several Spanish language radios for over a week.  These ads targeted Senator Anitere Flores, the original sponsor of SB 2040, and Representative Carlos López-Cantera, at the time a strong supporter of HB 7098.

The ads echoed that anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic bills hurt, but they hurt even more when they come from or are supported by one of our own. In response to the ads, Rep. López-Cantera clarified his position and spoke against immigration bills in Florida. He said Florida isn’t Arizona and doesn’t need an Arizona type law. Sen. Anitere Flores eventually withdrew from SB 2040 and explained she was no longer behind SB 2040 and would not support an Arizona style bill for Florida either.

The ads asked Sen. Flores and Rep. López-Cantera whether supporting these immigration bills was worth betraying their communities. Evidently, the response was NO.  The Latino community made it clear, Latino lawmakers won’t be allowed to support a bill that would be harmful to the immigrant population.

The defeat of SB 2040 and HB 7098 is a great victory for immigrant rights advocates, faith, business and agriculture leaders who worked so hard with the Hispanic Community to ensure the anti-immigrant, harmful bills did not pass.

Yesterday, Politico noted the role of the Hispanic community in the defeat of the Arizona-like bills:

A targeted radio campaign by the group Democracia Inc. and its allies may have caused two Hispanic Florida Republicans to back away from their support of a controversial immigration bill.

Sen. Anitere Flores and House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera were both targets of a Spanish-language ad buy against the bill that questioned both their commitments to the Hispanic community — and both quickly backed down in the face of community pressure.

“Sen. Anitere Flores is sponsoring an anti-immigrant law that will affect not only undocumented immigrants, but all of us who are immigrants or refugees and who prefer to speak Spanish. It’s a law like the one in Arizona that has been called “discriminatory” by groups representing us” said the narrator in the ad against Flores. “An anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic law hurts, but it hurts more when it is one of us who is sponsoring it.”

No immigration bill will pass in the state of Florida, at least not for now. However, we’re not out of the woods forever. Florida doesn’t need an immigration bill and the mere possibility of one tarnishes the appeal of the state for both tourism and business investments.

The question Florida legislators should ask themselves next time they think of introducing an immigration bill should be: Is passing an immigration bill in Florida worth ruining the states’ economy and reputation? Is it worth throwing the Latino community on your back? – Think about it.

We did, the answer was NO.