Immigration reform is a top priority in the Florida legislature. Republican leaders say more has to be done to crack down on people living and working in the state illegally. They've written a measure that critics say mirrors Arizona’s controversial immigration law.
From Tampa Bay to Orlando, down to Miami and beyond, they've come here by the hundreds, holding giant signs, with one unified message… 'Immigrants are the solution, not the problem'.
At issue – a pair of fast-moving immigration enforcement bills.
One would require employers to use the e-verify program to confirm that job applicants are here legally. It would also require Florida prisoners to be transferred to federal authorities if they're found to be illegal immigrants, but the more controversial bill is being described by critics as a carbon copy of Arizona's new law – the one that allows law enforcement to question people about their immigration status.
Republicans call the legislation sorely needed, but Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner traveled here to make the point Florida's a lot different than Arizona.
“The impact on agriculture in our state, the impact on our hotel/restaurant industry, the impact on cost to cities and counties, none of this being discussed,” she said. “This is an emotional issue that we understand is driven by anger and frustration in a really difficult recession.”
Republicans point out they've taken a very measured approach on this issue, holding special committee meetings beginning back in January to hear from everybody in an attempt to craft a policy that's fair.
Both bills are still in the committee process, but critics say they're concerned the republican majority ill move quickly to hold votes possibly before the end of the month.