Published in the Bradenton Times: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 3:00 am
by Dennis Maley
BRADENTON – It didn’t take a genius to figure out that immigration reform would be a hot issue during the first week of the new legislative session. Such laws are low-hanging fruit, the sort of red meat that fanatics crave and whenever such issues arise you can bet that someone in public office will capitalize on the opportunity to gain the support of the lynch mob.
Elected officials in Tallahassee delivered on that red meat last week, introducing Senate Bill 1896 (appropriately tagged since it seems to have come from that era), and SB 7066. SB 1896 was introduced by Senator Bill Evers, chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, and is dubbed the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.”
The bill would prevent state or local legislation that limits implementation of federal immigration laws to the full extent and would also require law enforcement officers to determine the status of someone that presents “reasonable suspicion of a person who is an alien and unlawfully present in the United States.”
“In the midst of Florida’s crisis, our legislators insist in scapegoating immigrants instead of finding real solutions to our problems,” says María Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Attacking immigrants will cause great political theater, but it won’t create jobs or reduce Florida’s unemployment and foreclosure rates, among the highest in the country.”
SB 7066 forces local police to question the immigration status of any person arrested, even for minor offenses such as traffic violations, and turn them to ICE even if they are not convicted of any crime. Several groups have announced protests this week, including a march on Tallahassee this Thursday to denounce such profiling bills.