Florida County Pushes for Arizona-style Immigration Law

Florida is at it again. Now, the Republican Party of Sarasota has begun a petition supporting the passage of an Arizona-style immigration enforcement law for the state. Their main slogans claim they are for a “stand against illegal immigration,” support ” a strong national border” and are opposed to the “use of $5.5 Billion of American taxpayer dollars to support the law breaking illegal immigrants residing in the State of Florida.” The petition argues that the federal government has failed “to control our country’s borders and protect American citizens from the crimes committed and costs incurred by illegal immigrations,” and calls for the support of the Arizona Immigration law passed in 2010, which is now under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.

Moreover, Congressmen from Florida have signed briefs for both sides of the Supreme Court issue. This Arizona measure is without a doubt the model used by other states in passing immigration laws and three Florida Republicans are amongst those who support the measure and made it known to our nation’s highest court, while two Florida Democrats joined others in filing a similar brief but in stark opposition to the Arizona law, citing the constitutional illegality of states controlling federal immigration laws.

As you may recall from our previous blog posts, the state of Florida has been at it for a while, attempting to gain consensus to enact a statewide law akin to that in Arizona, but the resistance has proven to be too great to break. During the Congressional 2011 session, the Florida Legislature was not able to pass the immigration enforcement bills it had written up, which would have permitted local law enforcement to ask suspects about their immigration status. The two failed immigration enforcement bills included HB 7089 by state Representative William Snyder and SB 2040 by Senator Anitere Flores, which included provisions that would have made programs such as the controversial Secure Communities a permanent part of law enforcement in Florida. Secure Communities is considered to be central to President Obama’s national immigration enforcement strategy, seeking to expand it until it reaches nationwide implementation.

The program was begun by the Bush administration in 2008 and uses the fingerprints of everyone who is booked into a local or county jail, sending that information to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wherein the data is flagged when it detects individuals who are undocumented and who have serious criminal records of the kind that would amount to deportation. Although the program is meant to target those individuals who are deemed a security threat, it has instead caught too many immigrants charged with low-level crimes or guilty only of being in the country illegally.

While Florida is one of the few states in which every county works in conjunction with federal authorities through the Secure Communities program, it has been widely criticized for its ineffectiveness and lack of proper functioning. it is very fortunate that the Florida Legislature . Since it has become practically impossible to opt-out of Secure Communities, let’s hope that more damage to our society and economy is kept at bay and that this attempt by Sarasota to pass Arizona-style immigration law will blow over because it would be incredibly detrimental to our state.

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