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Immigration bill passes Senate, time is short for the House

It is down to the last day for the current session in Tallahassee. After heated debate throughout the session the Florida Senate Tuesday voted down an amendment that would have required all Florida businesses to participate in the federal employment verification program known as E-Verify, or risk fines if a worker was found to be an undocumented immigrant.

Wednesday the Senate quietly approved an immigration measure with no further debate. The Senate version would state and local law enforcement agencies make a reasonable effort to determine the immigration status of individuals arrested and brought to jail.

The Senate measure that passed on Wednesday also includes a provision to refer undocumented immigrants convicted of nonviolent crimes to federal officials for deportation and removal hearings.

The Senate measure differs from the House version. With the session expected to recess for the year Friday night, the prospects for the Senate bill to make it through the House are uncertain. The House measure takes a particularly tougher stance on immigration.

Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, have converged on Tallahassee in recent weeks over the proposed measures. Protesters at the State Capital say the Florida immigration measures are unconstitutional and promote racial profiling. Arizona passed a measure last year that is tied up in the federal court system. The matter is on appeal after a federal judge found the law unconstitutional.

After the Senate measure passed Wednesday with little time remaining in the current session Governor Rick Scott, who has been advocating for tough immigration measures said he is "hopeful that between now and Friday night, we'll do the right things with regards to immigration." The statement was made in response to a question of whether a special session would be called to deal with immigration.

Update on 5/12: The House did not take up the Senate measure before the session adjourned on Friday.

Source: New York Times, "Florida Struggles With Arizona's Immigration Plan," Lizette Alvarez 4 May 2011

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