In Florida, immigrants make up more than a fifth of the population, coming from places as diverse as Cuba, Haiti, Mexico and parts of South America.
The Florida Senate & House are currently working on legislation that would require local governments to use their “best efforts” to support federal immigration law, including complying with requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain suspected undocumented immigrants held in local jails until ICE is able to pick them up.
A coalition of civil rights groups, social justice advocates, farmers and business leaders had teamed up to try to block the legislation.
Opponents say the House and Senate bills are drafted so broadly that Florida law enforcement officials would in effect become deputies in President Trump’s broader crackdown on immigrants in the country illegally. Opponents fear that heightened cooperation with ICE will increase racial profiling while undermining the state economy by eroding its workforce.
Others believe it is a mechanism to solve a significant problem that exists in this state today since it’s estimated that about 775,000 immigrants living in Florida are in the country illegally. Those in favor of the bill believe that this law would not affect hardworking illegal immigrants that are not breaking the law.
At stake, opponents say, are not just the civil liberties of immigrants, but also Florida’s thriving economy and its identity — at least in the state’s biggest cities — as a melting pot that welcomes outsiders. About 20 percent of Florida’s population is foreign-born, though that share is far higher, 53 percent, in Miami and Orlando.
The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a “travel alert” last month warning that immigrants’ rights could be at risk should the legislation be signed into law.
But other important business interests have been less vocal in their opposition, at least publicly, than they were during an earlier immigration debate in 2011. That year, former Gov. Rick Scott, fueled into office by tea-party fervor, tried unsuccessfully to pass a stringent immigration law. The difference, is that this year’s proposal does not include employers’ biggest worry: a mandate to use the E-Verify electronic system to check employees’ immigration status.