Florida State Leaders propose immigration law

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, along with Rep. William Snyder and other state legislative leaders, revealed proposed legislation that would curb illegal immigration in Florida, according to a recent Attorney General’s news release. Under the proposed legislation, law enforcement officers would be required to check suspected illegal immigrants’ status during the course of a lawful stop, Florida businesses would be required to use E-Verify to ensure new hires are legally authorized to work, and penalties for illegal aliens who commit crimes in the state would be enhanced.

Similar to the controversial Arizona immigration law, portions of which a federal judge preliminarily enjoined the state from enforcing last month, the Florida draft legislation requires aliens to carry immigration documentation or face a misdemeanor that could result in a sentence of up to 20 days in jail for the first offense. The proposed Florida law also makes it a misdemeanor for an illegal alien not authorized to work to seek employment in Florida.

Would Florida succeed where Arizona failed? Based on the likelihood that the federal government could succeed on the merits in showing that they are preempted by federal law, and other factors, US District Judge Susan Bolton enjoined enforcement of similar provisions in the Arizona immigration law:

* A requirement that an officer make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained, or arrested if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is unlawfully present in the United States, and requiring verification of the immigration status of any person arrested prior to releasing that person;
* A provision that makes failure to apply for or carry alien registration papers a crime; and
* A provision that makes it a crime for an unauthorized alien to solicit, apply for, or perform work.

Nonetheless, attorneys in the Florida Attorney General’s Office have reviewed Bolton’s ruling and made changes to the Florida draft legislation “to strengthen it against potential constitutional challenges.”

Florida’s proposed version is tougher. The proposed Florida immigration law goes further than the Arizona law by giving judges and law enforcement additional tools in dealing with illegal immigrants from bond through sentencing. Judges would be permitted to specifically consider a defendant’s unlawful presence in the process of setting his or her bond. The proposed law also includes a sentencing enhancement, so that illegal aliens who commit crimes in Florida would face increased prison time.