Florida Republicans Softening On Illegal Immigration?

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By Tom Tillison
Orlando Political Press

With close to 1 million illegal immigrants residing in Florida, costing taxpayers anywhere from $3 – $5 Billion dollars a year depending on which study you fall back on, there’s every reason to expect Florida lawmakers to go after the issue in earnest.  Right?

Florida is facing a $3.5 Billion dollar budget shortfall this year and unemployment is still at record levels, 11.9% based on the latest reports, so it would appear to be prudent to follow the lead of other states that have begun cracking down on illegal immigration. 

Arizona immediately comes to mind because of all the controversy stirred up by the far left media, however, other states facing similar challenges as Florida are now following suit.  It was just announced this week that the Kentucky legislature, in one of it’s very first acts of business in 2011, has moved a bill out of committee that would allow police to determine the immigration status of people they detain, permitting a strict enforcement of  immigration laws to halt the drain on government services.

However, after much talk about tackling the issue head on during the campaign season, we now see a softening of position on illegal immigration taking shape here in Florida.  Newly elected Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who promotes an industry heavily dependent on migrant workers, said this past week, “I don’t think we ought to cut and paste the Arizona law for Florida.”

Putnam also said, “At the end of the day it has to be a federal solution, this is Congress’ problem that they have to find a solution for.”

The problem here is that the taxpayers of Florida are paying the price and it does little to reinforce our state sovereignty, which has become the hot button issue when it comes to the federal government failing to act in the best interest of the states.

Yet, as reported on Sunshine State News, Arizona-style immigration legislation appears to be dead on arrival in Tallahassee this year.  Instead, a different approach that would give skittish Republicans political cover has emerged – The Florida Citizens Employment Protection Act would mandate that all employers use the federal E-Verify program to screen prospective employees’ legal status to work in this country. It also would suspend the business licenses of companies that refuse to sign an affidavit declaring they have no illegal aliens working for them.

This approach follows the lead of Rick Scott, who has already signed an executive order implementing E-Verify at all state agencies and conveniently shifts the burden of enforcing our immigration laws from the government, where it belongs, onto the backs of employers. 

It also provides political cover for the Republican dominated Florida Legislature’s failure to exercise bold leadership in addressing the issue.

The problem with E-Verify is that it fails to catch illegal immigrants applying for jobs more than 50% of the time because it can’t detect identity fraud.

It’s really not rocket science, folks.  How did illegal immigration become such a rampant problem in the first place?  Was government asleep at the wheel while millions of illegals poured across our borders?

It’s clear that the powerful agriculture industry in Florida has raised objections to any serious solution to illegal immigration.  The same industry that pours millions of dollars into the coffers of our elected officials.  As does the tourism industry.  And we hear the familiar charges of racial profiling and the concern that the Republican Party will be perceived as an anti-immigrant party.

How about being perceived as the party that respects the laws of this country, the party that places principles before political gain, the party that will not allow the far left to continue framing the debate by labeling any effort to control illegal immigration as being anti-immigration?

At the end of the day, as with most things, it comes down to money and votes.  Not wanting to shut off the money spigot and not wanting to alienate the Hispanic vote, it looks as if this can will continue to be kicked down the road, if Floridians allow it to happen. 

After all, if our lawmakers where really serious about solving the illegal immigration problem here in Florida, we’d have seen action during the 2010 legislative session.  Unfortunately, all this political posturing continues to be done at the expense of the citizens of Florida.

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