They came by the hundreds. Immigrants and their children pleading with lawmakers not to enact immigration reform. In the end, their two months of activism played a big role in killing the bill.
“This is not the best thing that we should be doing.”
Now prominent republican activists say they couldn't disagree more. They want a summertime special session to try for immigration reform again.
Democratic representative Alan Williams is firmly against the idea.
“We've given it the best opportunity we could,” said Rep. Williams. “We vetted it for 60 days, versus maybe a one week or two week special session. Why do we want to put members and, really, the state and those who would be impacted through that again?”
As the voices of one group begin to fade away, the collective voice of another is beginning to rise – namely that of the tea party, a powerful force in republican politics. And with the 2012 elections fast approaching, GOP leaders here are giving the group plenty of attention.
“Only fools and Yankees try and tell what the Legislature's going to do in Florida.”
Even tea party activist Paul Henry can't tell if we'll have that special session. If we do, there are bound to be deep divides within the GOP. Take requiring employers to screen the immigration status of job applicants, an expense that would also expand the role of government.
“We don't want to see the government grow any further than what it is,” said Henry. “We're already $14 trillion in debt, $1.6 trillion deficit this year, and we don't need to enlarge it - we don't need to specifically ask the federal government for permission to work, which is what E-verify does.”
Ultimately it's that kind of divisive issue that makes democrats hopeful immigration reform won't happen.
“The rest of Florida, who aren't Tea Party members, will say, 'why aren't we focusing on jobs'?” said Rep. Williams.
At the same time, when the grassroots speak, politicians tend to listen.
Critics of the special session point out it would cost taxpayers upwards of $50,000 a day.