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Immigrants raise voices over Florida immigration bills

Bus loads of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants are swarming to Tallahassee this week. Groups are converging on the capital in an all-out push to voice their concerns to lawmakers over immigration bills under debate in both houses of the Florida legislature. Immigrant advocates remain determined to keep pressure on lawmakers as Florida discusses whether or not to enact legislation similar to that enacted a year ago in Arizona.

Many of the undocumented immigrants converging on Tallahassee are there to plead with lawmakers not to break up immigrant families. Many children of all ages are a part of the recent activity; some of the children involved have had parents deported already, or are in fear that their families will be broken up through deportation and removal hearings. Isabel Vinent, an organizer of one trip conducted on Tuesday, says "we think when legislators see the faces of people it changes the discourse of the rhetoric."

Measures in the Florida Senate and Florida House appear to be stalled with less than ten days remaining in the session. The House reportedly is waiting until the Senate completes its work on an immigration measure. The Senate reportedly is waiting for Governor Rick Scott to lay out a plan. Senators plan to hold a special budget committee hearing later this week to take up the issue of immigration.

Both measures allow law enforcement to check on a person's immigration status. Wellington Senator Lizbeth Benaquisto has indicated that she intends to seek provisions in the Senate bill to protect women who are victims of violence or sexual abuse from facing deportation after reporting the allegations of abuse.

Governor Scott reportedly has said, "if somebody's violating our laws, we ought to be able to ask them" about their immigration status. He says he will not sign a bill that has "anything to do with racial profiling or treating people unfairly."

The House and Senate bills each have provisions regarding immigration employment eligibility verification. The House measure mandates employers utilize the federal E-Verify system, while the Senate measure looks to E-Verify or a similar state program.

Source: Palm Beach Post, "Immigrants keep up the fight, even as Florida crack-down bills founder," Dara Kim 26 Apr 2011

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