Coming Soon to Florida: an S.B. 1070 Copycat Bill

Didn’t we just try this in Arizona? The president of the Florida State Senate, Mike Bennett, recently introduced state legislation modeled on the now-famous – or infamous, depending on one’s viewpoint – Arizona immigration bill, commonly known as S.B. 1070. Like the Arizona measure, the Florida proposal would enable law enforcement officers to ask for a person’s immigration paperwork during a lawful stop or arrest, if the officer suspects that the individual is in the United States illegally. (See State Senator Unveils Arizona-Style Immigration Bill, by Kathleen Haughney, The Miami Herald, 01.Dec.2010.)

According to the Miami Herald, the sponsor included language in the bill to prevent racial profiling, forbidding law enforcement personnel “from using race as a reason for checking the person’s documentation.” Whether this would actually hold up in practice will be a matter subject to debate, if not outright controversy. Precise enforcement of such a measure is likely to be extremely difficult, and some legal immigrants are almost certain to get caught in the dragnet this bill envisions. According to the Miami Herald, the bill aims squarely at legal immigrants as well, requiring them to keep their immigration papers on them at all times, or face fines of up to $100 and jail terms of up to 20 days if they refuse to carry their documentation with them.

State Senator Bennett told the Miami Herald that he did not intend to punish people who live and work in Florida legally, but to crack down on gang violence and the drug trade – something he linked – albeit loosely – to illegal immigration. The Miami Herald reports that, “according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of Nov 10th, six other states have already filed immigration bills similar to Arizona’s and six other states have filed resolutions either supporting or condemning Arizona’s law.” Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result, may indicate a laudable optimism – but not everyone will interpret this so generously.

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