Business

Republicans Ram Immigration Bill Through Committee

Enforcement advocates silenced, E-Verify requirement diluted
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: April 5, 2011 3:55 AM
Immigration press conference 800x300

Rev. Russell Myers of the Florida Council of Churches invokes the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in speaking out against the Florida immigration bills

After introducing an 11th-hour amendment and taking no testimony from opponents, Senate Judiciary Chairman Anitere Flores on Monday rammed through quick party-line approval of an immigration bill.

Passage of Senate Bill 2040 was immediately hailed by Senate President Mike Haridopolos as "the first significant step in stopping illegal immigration in Florida." Others begged to differ after the panel's hurried vote.

Late amendments created a loophole in what was initially a tight E-Verify bill requiring employers to use the federal database to screen job applicants. The adulterated measure now offers employers the alternative of verifying applicants' driver's licenses.

Though Republicans called the amendment an improvement, the driver's license provision fueled more controversy. An eclectic coalition of immigration advocates and businesses still opposes any state-imposed eligibility requirements, while immigration-control groups seethed over what they called betrayal by GOP leaders.

After the vote, some frustrated attendees in the packed committee room loudly chanted "Let Us Speak," and the panel quickly adjourned.

Tensions were high throughout the day, as a minority- and immigrant-rights coalition staged a press conference to denounce the legislation.

“Florida has many problems, immigrants aren't one of them. The current version of SB 2040 will turn every county in Florida into a little Arizona. At a time when even Arizona, Mississippi, and Kentucky are backing away from their immigration bills, we have no idea why Florida is still pushing through with this," Florida New Majority said in a statement.

On the other side, Floridians for Immigration Enforcement produced automated phone messages and a YouTube video over the weekend that called on Haridopolos to rein in Flores.

Two weeks ago, when Flores gutted the E-Verify language, Haridopolos said, "Rest assured, the legislation will strengthen E-Verify and get rid of the loopholes that currently exist.”

Monday's vote intensified skeptics' suspicion of political manipulation. By diluting the original measure, E-Verify supporters now fear that the amendment could sink the bill altogether. Some suspect that was the Republicans' goal all along.

"The amendment watered down E-Verify so much that it is dead. No employer will need to use the system," said tea party activist Robin Stublen.

Flores defended the driver's license provision by saying that only those licenses meeting the latest federal REAL ID specifications will be accepted.

Immigration press conference

An immigration rights activist holds up the civil rights-era slogan / Photos: Gray Rohrer

But David Caulkett of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement called the so-called document alternative "a hornet’s nest of litigation."

"This would be extremely complex for legislators to implement and employers to use," Caulkett told Sunshine State News.

Business groups flinch at the prospect of vetting and swiping driver's licenses. The newly amended SB 2040 requires employers to use a driver’s license bar code reader.

"Business groups testified that employers do not have computers, but now they are required to purchase a special device with special software. What’s up with this nonsensical requirement?" said Caulkett.

By contrast, the federal E-Verify database program is quick, easy and increasingly foolproof, studies say.

Prior to the committee vote, Flores said, "I've been called names I wouldn't want my son to hear." But instead of "appeasing both sides," as she put it, Flores' ramrod handling of Monday's hearing pleased virtually no one as scores of individuals and organizations who had signed up to speak were denied the opportunity to testify.

Flores earlier had entertained nearly two hours of testimony on other unrelated bills, keeping the bulk of the audience on hold.

Nevertheless, Haridopolos, who is running for U.S. Senate, applauded the panel's action in his press release issued minutes after the vote:

“This is a Florida-specific solution to address the issue of illegal immigration in our state. Florida will step up and protect its citizens because the federal government has failed us.”

A former state senator speaking privately wasn't so impressed with Flores' stewardship.

"The agreement is to get it out of her committee so they can cut it up," the senator said, citing a time-honored legislative gambit.

Flores did not respond to Sunshine State News' request for comment.

--

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.





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FoolMeOnce
12:23PM APR 5TH 2011
I am an Independent who has witnessed many family, friends in construction,landscaping lose their livelihood to IA's . I voted for Repubs in Nov. hoping they would help stop Citizen job loses to IA's . I just hope some Tea Party members run in 2012 because I will not vote for any Repub who is part of this shamefull debacle !!!!!!!
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Scotty
2:04PM APR 7TH 2011
You and me both!
jack nguyen
6:07PM APR 5TH 2011
You moron - Republicans aren't against IAs that are working for them. They'll arrest all the independents, but every corporation worth $1B+ gets all the illegals they want to put your family out of business.
Tea Partier
6:58AM APR 5TH 2011
OKAY RINO's!!! You're done! The Florida citizens just got screwed by you! We will not forget! The United States Senate run of Mike Haridopolos is over before it got started!!! What a set-up him being part of this Flores debacle!
Legal Citizen
12:03PM APR 5TH 2011
We 2nd and 3rd your comment. We will remember the names of these traitors and will vote accordingly!!
Conservative Republican
2:30PM APR 5TH 2011
Vote out all Moderate Republicans currently in office and replace them Conservative Tea Partiers!

Go West, Rubio, & Scott!

Mike Haridopolos = Charlie Crist
U Conn
5:09AM APR 5TH 2011
The last sentence pretty much says it all. That is the excuse we hear all the time. Just get it out of committee and we will cut it up. Problem is these bills are cut up so many times they look like paper ran through a shredder. It serves no useful purpose except for trash.

This is a major failure to the citizens of Florida, of which over one million of them are looking for jobs. Sen. Thrasher and Flores certainly worked well together on this one. They spent more time on the calling of the roll than they did on this bill. We will not forget.
Scotty
2:07PM APR 7TH 2011
Hear hear!
Gary
8:58AM APR 5TH 2011
Florida Has the 3rd Largest Illegal Population in the Country
Florida Has the 3rd Highest Umemployment Rate in the Country
Co-Incidence ? No
Florida's Construction, Restaurant, Hotel/Motel, and Landscaping Industries are Using so Illegal Aliens in their workforce ( and Paying them Cash and NO TAXES), The Legitimate Employers
that Hire only Florida Citizens are Going out of Business.

Wake Up People - Our State and our Citizens are Suffering Due to the State Not Cracking down againsy Employers that hire Illegals and ignoring this problem.
Herb Bates
12:42PM APR 5TH 2011
We didn't vote you in and quit watching like before, we are watching everything you do and Mike you failed us as did the rest of the Republicans, time to find another job, your fired, can we recall state senator's, if so lets send a message now.

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