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Florida Shouldn't Make Arizona's Immigration Mistake
WASHINGTON - April 28 - Two bills being considered in Florida's state legislature mandate that all employers use E-Verify or a new state-based verification process to check the immigration status of their employees. The Center for American Progress has released the report “Florida Shouldn’t Make Arizona’s Mistake,” by Ann Garcia and Sam Chatto, which shows that these bills pose a severe economic threat to the state and if passed they could damage the state’s image, hurt businesses, and alienate the state’s legal immigrant population—all without solving the problem of undocumented immigration.
In the Florida Senate, Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Kendall) has introduced S.B. 2040, which requires that all employers use a state-based verification process and strongly encourages all state and local police to engage in immigration enforcement efforts and Rep. William Snyder (R-Stuart) has sponsored H.B. 7089 in the Florida House, making it a crime to be a foreign national without papers by allowing state law enforcement to check the immigration status of any individual if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.
Florida, like Arizona, generates much of their revenue from their tourism industry, taxes and small business – all of which stand to suffer losses if it were to pass any anti-immigrant legislation similar to Arizona’s SB 1070:
- Tourists spend more than $7 billion a year within the state, and an Arizona-like law has the potential to severely affect this vital source of revenue. Arizona saw a total loss of $217 million in direct spending by convention attendees, along with an additional $535.4 million in lost tax revenues, economic output, and earnings in the immediate wake of S.B. 1070’s enactment.
- Florida’s fiscal coffers have been hit particularly hard during the economic downturn, and the state’s expected budget shortfall has grown to $3.6 billion this year. With undocumented immigrants contributing $4.5 billion a year in tax revenues, now is not the time to eliminate this stable tax base.
- Florida, which has more than twice the number of undocumented immigrants as Arizona, is highly reliant on their labor in sectors important to the state’s economy. Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, said a state immigration law "would basically eliminate the tomato industry from the state."
The state should push for comprehensive immigration reform. Florida could stand to benefit immensely by pressing Congress to reform our immigration laws and require undocumented immigrants to register, pay taxes, learn English, and earn legal status. If Florida politicians have hopes for a prosperous future, they must oppose these economically damaging bills.