Florida Preparing An Arizona-Style Immigration Bill

In case you were wondering…

Florida Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton is sponsoring an immigration bill similar to Arizona’s SB1070 Act.
Via the Miami Herald

The first crack at an Arizona-style immigration overhaul has been filed in the Florida Senate, with a proposal that would let law enforcement officers ask suspected illegal aliens to prove their immigration status and could penalize some legal immigrants who aren’t carrying proper documentation.

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, is the first volley in a likely long and heated debate over the future of immigration policy in the state. Since the passage of the Arizona law last spring, many Florida Republicans – including Gov.-elect Rick Scott – have argued that Florida needs a similar law and campaigned on the issue throughout the summer and into the fall.

“Any time you file a bill it’s basically opening up for dialogue, opening up for discussion, opening up for debate,” Bennett said.

Scott, in particular, made the Arizona law a major piece of his race for governor, frequently mentioning it at campaign stops and urging Floridians to follow his lead and make a donation to Arizona’s Border Security and Immigration Legal Defense Fund. Since his election in November, the incoming governor has been largely quiet on the subject and has not drawn up any specific proposals yet, but his spokesman said the governor maintains his position on the issue.

…Bennett’s measure would allow law enforcement officers during a lawful detention or arrest to ask for the detainee’s immigration documents if the officer suspects they may be in the country illegally. The bill, however, prohibits law enforcement from using race as a reason for checking the person’s documentation. The bill also penalizes legal aliens who refuse to carry their documentation, with a possible fine of up to $100 and a 20-day jail sentence.

Bennett said his goal with the legislation was for the Legislature to crack down on the criminal elements sometimes associated with illegal immigration, such as gang violence or drug trade. It is not, he said, to punish people who live and work in Florida legally.

“I don’t think anyone is looking for a bill that has a police officer stopping everyone on the street who has a tan or dark hair,” he said.

According to Rasmussen most Florida voters (61%) support an immigration law similar to the one passed in Arizona in their own state.  With good reason.  A study, dated July 2010, by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates that illegal immigration now costs federal and local taxpayers $113 billion a year, of which the cost to Florida is $5.5 billion. There is also the issue of illegal alien criminals and their impact on Florida communities.


The West Orlando News reported on the cost to taxpayers:

The report, The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on U.S. Taxpayers, is the most comprehensive analysis of how much the estimated 13 million illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children cost federal, state and local governments.

The cost estimates are based on an extensive analysis of federal, state and local spending data. The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on U.S. Taxpayers examines dozens of government programs that are available to illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children, both legally and fraudulently. The report provides detailed analysis of the impact of illegal immigration on education, health care, law enforcement and justice, public assistance, and other government programs.

The report also accounts for taxes paid by illegal aliens – about $13 billion a year, resulting in a net cost to taxpayers of about $100 billion. However, the study notes that government at all levels would likely have realized significantly greater revenues if jobs held by illegal aliens had been filled by legal U.S. residents instead.

The study finds that Federal spending on illegal aliens amounts to $29 billion.  The lion’s share of the costs of illegal immigration is borne by state and local taxpayers – an estimated $84.2 billion.  In 18 states, expenditures on illegal aliens exceeded the size of those states’ budget deficits in FY 2009.

The study concludes with this statement:

The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on U.S. Taxpayers provides a definitive response to the question of whether illegal aliens are a net benefit or a net drain on government coffers,” stated Dan Stein president of FAIR. “The report examines virtually every federal, state and local government program to determine the impact of illegal immigration on the bottom line. That bottom line – $113 billion a year, and growing – makes our nation’s failure to control illegal immigration one of the largest preventable burdens borne by American taxpayers.”“If political leaders in Washington and state capitals want to understand why the American public is demanding enforcement of our immigration laws, The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on U.S. Taxpayers, provides 113 billion good reasons,” Stein concluded.

As Ed Morrissey at HotAir points out, President Obama may not have the political will to challenge Florida as aggressively as he did Arizona.  Arizona has 10 electoral votes.  Florida has 27 electoral votes.  Obama carried Florida in 2008 and cannot afford to alienate the majority of its voters in 2010.  Particularly since key states that he took in 2008 have shifted Republican since, including Ohio (20 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes), and Wisconsin (10 electoral votes).

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