BY FRAN RICARDO
An undercurrent of fear has rippled through the U.S. since the passage of Arizona’s SB1070, a broad and strict anti-illegal-immigration measure. However, it now appears that people are realizing, even in Arizona, the impact of such a stringent bill. With the current economic crisis and continued boycotts against Arizona, people are beginning to put the brakes on similar bills throughout the country.
Here in Florida, we are in the throes of 14 bills that the new Florida Legislature is molding into an anti-immigrant bill, stripping immigrants of their human rights.
One aspect of the bill would institute E-verify, requiring employers to use a costly federal system – one proven faulty – to verify the eligibility of an employee. If not used, employers could be fined and in some cases lose their licenses.
Secondly, the expansion of 287(g) (a rule in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement handbook) would result in police taking on the additional role of immigration officers, further burdening their workload, leaving many people vulnerable to crime.
Another aspect of these proposed bills requires law enforcement to determine a person’s immigration status when there is “reasonable suspicion” that this person is unlawfully present in the U.S. If this passes, potentially anyone will need to be prepared to prove their status at any time, at any place, if they are stopped or questioned by law enforcement.
Individuals of various ideologies, including conservative Rep. Connie Mack, oppose this type of infringement of liberties. In a piece for the Washington Post, Mack wrote, “Our Constitution protects individual freedoms and liberties… Anger about the economy, increased crime and security concerns are fueling this law, not constitutional principles.” Furthermore, Mack stated, “I do not want to live in a nation where American citizens are asked, ‘Where are your papers?’ We are better than that.”
Florida’s top agricultural producers, along with religious leaders, actively oppose these bills. Racial profiling and the potential separation by deportation of undocumented family or friends keep many on edge – whether documented or not, citizens or visitors.
Immigrants and the general public both are endangered when criminals can feel free to attack people of color who will be afraid to talk with police and when the poor are kept away from health services by fear of arrest.
The focus on racial profiling from these proposed bills, with potential harassment of legal residents and citizens, creates insecurity for people of color and reduces their trust in the police. The present political atmosphere jeopardizes the health and safety of all communities.
States, including Florida, should focus on the economic crisis, which has real problems and needs real solutions. Take a moment to contact your State Representative and Senator. The message is clear: leave the immigration issue to the federal government and focus on concrete actions to improve Florida.