Florida Legislators Expected to Revive Immigration Push Following Arizona Ruling

Jun 26, 2012

The following article was published in The Sunshine State News on June 26, 2012:

Florida Legislators Expected to Revive Immigration Push Following Arizona Ruling

By Jim Turner


The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law may revive Florida’s 2010 effort to bring some Western justice to the Sunshine State.

In a victory for the federal government, the nation’s top court tossed out most of Arizona’s 2010 immigration law on Monday. However, the court upheld the most controversial portion, allowing state and local law enforcement officials to verify a person’s legal status when stopped on suspicion of committing a separate offense.

For state legislators and Gov. Rick Scott, the law gives them and Florida residents a firm grasp that the federal government is primarily responsible for the enforcement of immigration laws. That means President Obama and Congress.

At the same time, because of the ruling, legislators should be expected to quickly bring back efforts that could allow state and local law enforcement to demand suspects and others involved in a criminal investigation show their residency papers.

“The court says there may well be an opportunity and obligation for local and state law enforcement to do that with response, to do the same check for illegal activity in stopping an illegal alien in commission of a crime,” said Senate President-designate Don Gaetz, R-Niceville,

“I’m confident that there will be those in the Legislature who will look for an opportunity to introduce state legislation to accomplish that. I’m sure legislation of that kind will be introduced and debated.”

In 2011 a bill that sought similar measures to Arizona died after tourism and agricultural interests teamed with business leaders. Immigration reform got little attention in the 2012 session.

Gov. Scott has called the 2011 failure on immigration reform a big disappointment, but he didn’t push the issue earlier this year.

On Monday, Scott said he had yet to review the court ruling, but continued his push for enforcement of federal policies on immigration.

“The states have had to respond because the federal government hasn’t,” Scott said while at the Florida Division of Emergency Management in Tallahassee
“We cannot put Florida businesses at a disadvantage. We’ve got to do the right thing. The federal government ought to do their job; secure borders, come up with a logical national immigration plan.”

House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said leadership will closely review the decision before proceeding.

“The utter failure of the federal government to address comprehensive immigration reform has left states with no choice but to take matters into their own hands,” Weatherford responded in an email. “I have never believed the Arizona law is the model for Florida. Having said that, the ruling does provide clear direction.”

The ruling struck down three parts of the law:

— Made it a crime for an illegal immigrant to work or seek work in Arizona.

— Authorized state and local officials to arrest people without a warrant if the officers believe an individual is an illegal immigrant.

— Required immigrants to register with the federal government.

As for the part that was upheld, that may be quickly challenged.

In the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion from the bench, wrote that the “show me your paper” requirement must first be challenged to determine if it conflicts with federal law.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor supported Kennedy’s decision.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito concurred in part and dissented in other areas.

The Arizona law was contested in court by the Obama administration, which argued that immigration law is foreign policy under federal, not state, jurisdiction.

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, called the ruling a partial victory “for the rights of states attempting to address the federal government’s failure to end illegal immigration.”

“We’ve waited far too long for Washington to take action to secure the border,” Mica stated in a campaign email.

“As our immigration system continues to fail current citizens and those who wish to immigrate here legally, I will work with my colleagues in Congress to take steps to deal with the federal government’s failure to address immigration enforcement and to protect our borders.”

Meanwhile, Democrats, who have used such Republican-crafted laws to galvanize support, expressed pleasure that the federal government’s authority was upheld.

“This ruling proves that we need comprehensive immigration reform, not separate laws for each state,” U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, stated in a release. “I call upon my Republican colleagues in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform, including passing the DREAM Act into law.”

“While our nation’s immigration system is in desperate need of reform, enacting patchwork policies that conflict with existing federal laws and constitutional rights is not the solution,” U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, added in a separate release.

Hastings added that the provision to require officers check the status of people “sets a dangerous precedent for profiling and discrimination.

“While we do need to address the illegal immigration problems in our country, directing law enforcement officials to become involved in immigration issues may lead to a rift between legal immigrant populations and communities, and local and state law enforcement.”

The Florida Immigrant Coalition vowed to continue to fight any attempt in Florida to enact such legislation.

“Racial profiling is already an epidemic. The failure to recognize ‘show me your papers’ provisions as unconstitutional will deepen the crisis and undermine our safety,” Maria Rodriguez, executive director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, stated in a release. “We are building a social movement, naturalizing, registering and voting to end racism and exclusion in Florida and in throughout the country.”

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