Immigration Clock Runs Down on Republicans
Senate politicking bodes ill for tougher House bill; Haridopolos' Senate hopes fading, too?
Around the State
The clock is ticking down to Drop-Dead Tuesday, and a much-debated immigration bill still isn't on the agenda at the Senate Budget Committee.
If Senate Bill 2040 doesn't clear the panel by the end of business Tuesday, the measure is all but eliminated from consideration this session. Conservatives say the political repercussions could blow back on Senate President Mike Haridopolos' campaign for U.S. Senate.
The demise of SB 2040 would leave House Bill 7089 as the only remaining hope for immigration reform.
HB 7089, in fact, is a stronger bill. In addition to requiring employers to use the federal E-Verify database to screen new employees, the measure authored by Rep. Bill Snyder also authorizes law-enforcement officers to pursue immigration-related charges during a criminal investigation.
While HB 7089 cleared House committees with broad Republican support, the Senate's diluted E-Verify has encountered vocal opposition. Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Anitere Flores' controversial addition of a driver's license alternative angered E-Verify advocates and failed to bring business and agriculture groups on board.
Even in its watered-down form -- or perhaps because of it -- SB 2040 appears doomed. Though it could get a last-minute hearing in J.D. Alexander's crowded Budget Committee Tuesday, sources say the bill does not have the votes to pass the full Senate.
A Sunshine State News survey of the 28 Republicans in the Senate indicates that the measure may lack the 21 votes needed for passage. No Democrats have voted for the bill.
Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, epitomized fence-straddling Republicans when he issued this statement recently:
“SB 2040 is not perfect; however, it offers some reasonable solutions to the perceived illegal immigration problems in our state.
"With further discussion, we may be able to compromise on achieving acceptable immigration reform that is friendly to economic growth.”
That said, Garcia declared that he would not support HB 7089. Echoing the mantra of Democrats and immigration enthusiasts, he said Snyder's bill "presents a significant threat to individual freedom because of the potential of racial profiling."
Immigration-enforcement proponents were trying Monday to pressure Senate President Mike Haridopolos to save SB 2040 ... or else.
An April 20 letter from Manatee Tea Party member Judith Hood bluntly accused Haridopolos of making a "ridiculous political decision to appoint rookie senator Flores, a vocal opponent of any state immigration laws, as chair of the Judiciary and in charge of the committee bill on illegal immigration."
"Today, the Senate version is in shambles and it has been decided Tuesday is the last day for committee meetings which you no doubt orchestrated," Hood wrote.
Haridopolos, who has announced he is running to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, is facing increasing pressure from the GOP base to distinguish himself from the Democrat. As Hood put it:
"The decision is yours: side with the illegal aliens funded by George Soros and aligned with Florida Immigrant Coalition, ACORN, ACLU, SEIU, and other organizations that want to destroy our state and country, or respect the rule of law, protect Florida taxpayers and get legislation passed protecting legal workers. Which will it be?"
Haridopolos did not immediately respond to Sunshine State News' requests for comment.
The Senate's skittishness on the issue is ironic, considering that public opinion polls show support for tougher immigration laws in Florida.
A Suffolk University/7News statewide survey of registered Florida voters found 51 percent favor an immigration policy similar to that of Arizona. Thirty-three percent said they were opposed and 15 percent were undecided. Fifty-two percent of respondents felt that immigration laws in the state were too lenient while just 8 percent felt they were too strict,
The statewide survey of 600 Florida voters was conducted April 10-12 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
Charlotte County tea party activist Robin Stublen blamed Republicans for stumbling on immigration.
"Surprisingly the push-back on this bill is not coming from just the liberal Democrats. For most of this legislative session, there have been a select few RINOs who have caused most of the problems. Their MO many times is to say publicly what they think we want them to say, only to go behind closed doors and tell leaders something completely different," said Stublen.
George Fuller, an immigration-enforcement supporter, accused GOP leaders of sabotaging needed legislation. While the Senate punctured its bill with amendments, the House loaded up enforcement provisions that could prove to be a poison pill.
"Senator Alan Hays and Representative Gayle Harrell had stand-alone E-Verify bills, but they were trashed for the committee bills," Fuller said. "It's the perfect way to act like you are serious about E-Verify, knowing all along the crime bill portion would be the killer."
Floridians for Immigration Enforcement says, at minimum, E-Verify legislation is needed to drain illegal aliens from the state's labor pool.
Pointing to Gov. Rick Scott's support of E-Verify, proponents say that undocumented workers take jobs from lower-income Floridians. Independent studies show that Florida taxpayers shoulder a $5.5 billion bill to provide government services to some 1 million illegals annually.
This month, the Georgia Legislature passed an immigration enforcement bill similar to Snyder's HB 7089.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.