As promised, the Florida Senate on Monday held their first of three scheduled days of hearings on illegal immigration. Senate President Mike Haridopolos called for such hearings, aware of the sensitivity that the volatile issue as GOP lawmakers said last year that they definitely wanted to address the issue.
One of the points of fact that legislators heard was a committee staff report that the number of undocumented immigrants in the Sunshine State has actually declined by 25% over the past two years. In Florida, that means that there are roughly 600,000 to 725,000 who are not of legal status roaming the state, three times more than was the case back in 1990.
There are currently four bills addressing the topic already in the hopper, but the author of one of those bills, Bradenton GOP state Senator Mike Bennett, says he may not even support his own bill.
Say that again?
Marc Caputo, writing in the St.Pete Times/Miami Herald, quotes Bennett as saying that "there probably will not be an Arizona immigration-style bill that passes the Florida Senate."
Echoing civil libertarians and Hispanic lawmakers, Bennett said the measure could lead to racial or ethnic profiling. Though the bill bans discrimination, he said it may not be enough.
"I might not even vote for it myself," said Bennett, adding that he copied much of the Arizona law "to start the conversation" about immigration reform.
Well, give the man from Bradenton some credit for candor. With the demand, especially amongst conservative voters, to do something, anything about the issue (demand that seemed relatively muted in recent years until Arizona introduced their controversial legislation, on the rest of the nation last year), Bennett admits that he wrote something up that deep down, he can't even muster up the support for.
One thing that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have endorsed is putting the clamp on employers who knowingly hire undocumented people. That's where E-Verify comes into play, the software system that allows employers to check the status of existing employees.
But a Department of Homeland Security told the panel that only federal contractors can use E-Verify, which had to be news to many in Florida, including the Democratic nominee for governor, Alex Sink, who said on the campaign trail that she would utilize the system to reduce illegal immigrants from being hired in the first place. Governor Rick Scott signed an executive order require all state agencies to use E-Verify.
The hearings continue today in Tallahassee.