Florida Businesses, Law Enforcement Question Need for AZ-Style Bill

Florida’s bid to pass legislation similar to Arizona’s S.B. 1070 appears to be running into resistance, according to an editorial in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. (See Immigration Reform Hits Snag in Tallahassee, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial, 14.Feb.2011.) As the editorial points out, the original proposal would have required police to demand immigration documents from anyone suspected of being here illegally. Now Florida law enforcement officials are airing concerns that this draconian measure might be more trouble than it’s worth, leading to court battles over racial profiling claims that are sure to follow, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Florida’s law enforcement community is not alone in having second thoughts. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Florida’s agricultural lobby is worried that an Arizona-style immigration bill “would prompt farm labor to avoid the state,” a risk this pivotal industry can ill afford to run. Florida’s enormous tourism industry also has spoken out against the bill, amid concerns it “would devastate their industry, which is far larger than Arizona’s and depends upon a thriving domestic and international market,” the Sun-Sentinel reported, noting that other business interests are concerned that Latin American investors and traders might think twice about doing business in Florida if an Arizona-style immigration bill became law.

The bottom line? If any immigration legislation passes in the Florida legislature, expect a watered-down version, the Sun-Sentinel predicts; in the end, the state’s economic interests are not served by me-too legislation that was passed in a different context:

“Florida is not Arizona. The state doesn’t share a border with a country locked in a violent and brutal drug war. So a knee-jerk, get-tough approach would do more harm than good in a state already hampered by a lackluster economy and a 12 percent unemployment rate.”

The question now is whether other states will follow Florida’s lead, smoothing the sharper edges of the Arizona bill to make it easier for business interests to swallow, or perhaps abandoning the idea altogether when they tote up the potential costs against the putative benefits. Time will tell.

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