Florida Republicans Push Restrictive Immigration Policies

Credit:Aneese
Credit:Aneese

(ESPAÑOL) Florida Republican lawmakers are pushing more restrictive immigration policies, possibly encouraged by the president’s own reforms. The lawmakers are currently backing bills that target undocumented immigrants and some refugees by denying in-state tuition, forcing local governments to assist immigration authorities (as a pushback to sanctuary practices) and requiring employers to make sure they only hire legal residents.

Trump has signed sweeping executive orders that seek to achieve many of the same policies state lawmakers are pushing. His policies punish local governments known as sanctuary cities that don’t comply with federal immigration officials and ban refugees from six countries with high Muslim populations.

The bills have been introduced before and turned down, but lawmakers are currently encouraged by Trump’s victory in Florida and hopefully a more conservative leaning from the other lawmakers and voters in general.

Immigration advocates say two of the seven bills they’re watching most closely this session were first filed after Trump began his presidential campaign in June 2015. One of these bills has a House companion for the first time.

The seven immigration bills offered this year would upgrade penalties for violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants; strip five years of state funding for local governments that don’t comply with federal immigration authorities and fine them up to $5,000 a day; make re-entry into the United States by undocumented immigrants a third-degree felony; repeal previous legislation supported by Gov. Rick Scott that gave in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants; increase background checks on refugees; end the state’s participation in a refugee resettlement program; and require employers to make sure employees are documented.

Despite more widespread support in the House by several lawmakers, these hardline bills have usually died on the Senate floor, such as the 2011 Arizona-style immigration bill.

Meanwhile, immigration advocates are stiffly opposing the proposals.  “This bill ultimately can’t be enforced without legalizing racial profiling,” said Francesca Menes, a Democrat and the policy director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, during a House criminal justice subcommittee last week before the bill passed. “Because how do you know (the immigrants) are actually undocumented without targeting particular communities that are the most vulnerable?”