Reports on Immigration Issue Pondered Over By Florida Lawmakers

Reports on Immigration Issue Pondered Over By Florida Lawmakers

2/9/2011

Questions on the impact of complex US immigration law on Florida’s tourism industry arose at a 3-hour workshop briefing for lawmakers. Some of those present had expressed reservations in siding with new GOP leaders who favor tougher stand against illegal immigrants.

The new Governor, Rick Scott, and Attorney General Pam Bondi have both expressed their favorable opinion on tougher immigration laws such as the one in Arizona. However, one speaker has warned that a similar law in Florida could potentially damage public relations, as well as have a negative impact on the state’s tourism industry.

Senator John Thrasher, a Republican from St. Augustine, said, “We’re frustrated.” He also asked, “What’s a state to do?”

Another lawmaker, Senator Mike Bennett, a Republican from Bradenton, has submitted an Arizona-type bill that allows police to ask for a person’s immigration documents. This can happen when an officer suspects that, during a legal stop or arrest, the person is in the country illegally.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida released a statement declaring their strong opposition to such legislation. The ACLU also asserted their opposition to any measure that would require businesses to utilize a federal database in checking the status of new hires.

During the briefing, lawmakers learned that, at present, approximately 725,000 illegal immigrants are living in Florida. They also learned that 5,641 undocumented immigrants are housed by state prisons, while approximately 80,000 are studying in public schools.

According to Robert Lord, Martin Memorial Health System’s vice president and chief legal officer, millions of dollars are spent by hospitals treating undocumented patients.

Senator Alan Hays, upon learning about the situation, said, “My sense right now is we have a real need for some quick action.”

WRITTEN BY:

blakeh@wellsdrew.com