In a meeting with immigrant advocates held last week, the Florida Republican Representative William Snyder said he had changed a highly controversial section of his Arizona-style immigration bill that skeptics said would have led to “blatant racial profiling.” The part in question exempted Canadians and people from “visa waiver countries” from providing proof of their status in this country. Some of the nations whose citizens can enter the U.S. for tourism or business reasons for 90 days without a visa include mostly European countries, but also Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The fear of disproportionate discriminative racial profiling for Latin and Hispanic immigrants lead to a slew of public outcry demanding this be taken out from the newly proposed bill. Even with these changes, though, concerns about the bill leading to profiling and social disruption still remain.
When questioned of how he thought the bill would be viewed by opponents of strict immigration penalization and enforcement Rep. Snyder said: “I don’t think they’ll support any version of my bill.” He went on to say that he had received tentative support for his draft measure from a major Florida law enforcement organization with the condition that he make another change. This alteration is suspected to be a change in wording that would allow inquiries of status only to those involved in a criminal investigation, as opposed to how the bill is currently written which permits law enforcement officers to question anybody during a “legal stop.” Rep. Snyder called the recommendation “an option,” but the changes will probably not stop there, especially after clarifying that the legislature could at any time reinsert the language into the bill if they chose to.
The immigration bill is expected to go through a series of public and committee hearings in the next coming weeks. In its present form, the bill would force employers in Florida to verify the legal status of all new hires, a requirement that will surely not bode well with the state’s $7.5 billion agriculture industry since it heavily relies on the labor of undocumented workers to remain competitive in the market. “When he gets before the agriculture committee up there in Tallahassee, you can expect some push-back on this bill. I don’t think this bill will make it out of the committee up there,” said an industry insider.
Another constituency that is sure to resist the enactment of this new bill is the tourism industry as well as the restaurant industry since it is especially known for employing undocumented workers and would thus be adversely affected by the bill. “I assume that representatives of the tourism industry will attend the hearings and I’ll hear what they have to say,” Rep. Snyder said. As for the chances of the Florida Legislature passing some version of this immigration bill- only time will tell.