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Gunning for Immigration Reform Again, Rick Scott Divides Business Groups

| August 2, 2011

Undocumented grass. (visionandimagination)

When lawmakers begin preparing for next year’s legislative session in September, one of their priorities should be taking another look at laws dealing with immigrants, Gov. Rick Scott said Monday.

Scott said the Legislature missed its best opportunity to do something about illegal immigration last session, because it’s a debate that’s “better to have in a non-election year than an election year” because things can get “blown out of proportion” during election years.

“We should have gotten something done on immigration,” Scott said.

How to deal with immigrants in the country illegally was one of the most intensely debated and controversial topics during this year’s legislative session, following passage of a high profile law in Arizona, and campaign promises by Scott in 2010 to get tougher on illegal immigrants.

The debate, though, divided the Republican Party, angered many Hispanics in the Legislature, and drew concerns from the powerful business lobby, which called proposals to beef up enforcement of federal laws with new state provisions costly to businesses and harmful to Florida’s workforce.

Ultimately, the legislation failed, after much lobbying by immigrant rights groups, some behind the scenes work from the agriculture lobby, and an intense, emotional debate on the Senate floor. It was one of the few issues that lawmakers couldn’t agree on in a legislative session dominated by a massive Republican to-do list.

Immigration changes are backed by many members of the Republican Party, especially in the “tea party” wing, many of whose members say that in the absence of federal immigration changes, states should make an effort to discover and deport illegal immigrants.

Florida’s immigration proposals floated earlier this year stopped short of the stringent Arizona-style measure that gave law enforcement officers broad power to detain someone suspected of being an illegal immigrant.

One proposal would have required law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of suspects once arrested and in custody. Another proposal would have let law enforcement officers seek the immigration status of suspects in criminal investigations and would sanction employers who do not use the federal E-verify system for checking status.

After Scott’s call for another discussion on immigration Monday, some business lobby groups said they didn’t think Florida should take up the controversial issue.

“This is a debate that needs to be played out at the federal level,” said Brewster Bevis, the vice president of external relations for Associated Industries of Florida, which lobbies on behalf of some of the state’s largest industries. “The last thing we need is going state by state and each state passing immigration laws to create a patchwork quilt system of immigration laws.”

Bevis acknowledged that despite the concerns surrounding the issue, it is likely to come up again next legislative session. “Moving into this session, do I think we will probably see immigration come back up? Sure, yeah I do think that,” Bevis said. “Will AIF continue to go out there and try to look for some means to have meaningful immigration reform? Yes we will. We will probably see some immigration reform this year.”

But Bevis said Florida cannot be too aggressive on immigration reform without scaring off businesses, a concern Scott said he was sensitive to while reiterating the need to hash out the sensitive topic next session.

“It’s a discussion we need to have,” Scott said. “I want to have a conversation this fall with everybody it impacts.”

Scott’s discussion with reporters of the issue on Monday was more nuanced than his campaign rhetoric, with the governor acknowledging that the state has to be careful in how it approaches changes in immigration policy.

“Where should the line be? Because one thing we can’t do is, we need jobs in our state,” Scott said. “And we can’t do anything that has an adverse impact on getting more jobs to our state.”

One thing that doomed efforts to change Florida’s law this year was that legislation in the Senate was crafted in a last-minute scramble toward the end of the session, irritating some lawmakers who thought it wasn’t thoroughly vetted.

The legislative proposals set off protests from immigrant rights groups, who flooded the Capitol for days, chanting, holding signs and pleading with lawmakers to reconsider.

Subhash Kateel, the coordinator of the We Are Florida campaign that launched protests against the proposals earlier this year, said he was dismayed the Governor wants to debate immigration again.

“One thing that is clear is it seems the Governor is still more interested in creating immigration bills than creating jobs,” Kateel said. Scott “didn’t get the message” last session when there was considerable opposition, he said.

–Lilly Rockwell, News Service of Florida

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9 Responses for “Gunning for Immigration Reform Again, Rick Scott Divides Business Groups”

  1. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Let’s be clear. Dems can’t support open immigration because their main source of income is the money unions confiscate from their mostly coerced members. Immigrants upset that apple cart big-time. This is not a Republican issue. Too bad Hispanics don’t seem to be able to see they’re being played and keep voting for lefties. The media can take full credit for that mis-information campaign which keeps Hispanics voting against their best interests.

  2. Nick D says:

    Well, maybe if we got tough on, not only illegal immigrants, but the companies that employ them…maybe I could find a job.

  3. Liana G says:

    Labor Market Competition

    …An important cause of misgivings about, and antagonism towards, Latinos in the Southeast (and elsewhere, too) has been their impact as competitors for jobs. Simply put, the complaint from many native-born Blacks and Whites alike is that “employers prefer to hire the Mexicans instead of us,” or phrased differently, “the Mexicans are taking jobs from us.” The jobs in question are typically working-class (e.g., in construction, landscaping, food processing, restaurants, hotel service work), not middle- or upper-class occupations. So this competition for jobs produces a situation of conflict, distrust, and accusation among people in the most needy and precarious economic situations…

    Three very different organized responses to split labor markets can occur. One is that native-born workers try to get protection against job competition from Latinos by calling for and supporting efforts to prevent business managers from hiring or employing immigrants who are not legally authorized to be in the United States (e.g., enforcement of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act [IRCA]; raids on worksites followed by deportation of “illegal aliens”).

    Another response is that a compromise of sorts is developed, whereby the employer gives native-born workers better-paying jobs (often fewer in number) and hires the immigrants to do the very lowest paying jobs…This apparently has been the situation in a huge Smithfield pork production factory in North Carolina, where, with a few exceptions, most managerial positions are held by Whites and Lumbee Indians, higher paying pig slaughtering jobs are held by African Americans, and lower paying “cutting up” jobs go to Mexicans (LeDuff 2001)…. we should note that the issue of labor force competition often fixates on the idea that Latino immigrants “take” jobs that would, allegedly, be held by native-born workers if only the newcomers were not here.

    This ignores an important side of the situation. Immigrants don’t just “take” jobs, they also “make” jobs, and many of these jobs go to native-born workers. As customers and shoppers, the purchases made by immigrants generate a need for, and the money to pay for, numerous clerks and managers in clothing, grocery, and other retail stores plus their suppliers. Also, employment of immigrants in low-paying manufacturing jobs (e.g., clothing, furniture) enables those businesses to remain competitive with overseas firms, thereby keeping native-born workers employed who would otherwise lose their jobs if the factory closed down and “fled” to another country where labor costs are lower.

    As for higher paying occupations, Latino immigrants provide business for attorneys specializing in immigration law, and for people in advertising or marketing firms hoping to make products popular in the growing “ethnic” market. In many cities Latino immigrants are heavy users of public transit; without their presence there would be fewer jobs for bus and train operators.

    Similarly, numerous public school systems in the Southeast report enrollment increases due to the presence of immigrants’ children. What is often emphasized are the burdens and costs that arise in educating the newcomers (and these are not inconsiderable), but we should also recognize that without their presence many schools would face enrollment declines and instead of hiring new teachers, administrators, and staff they would be laying off employees.

    These comments about job competition and the jobs immigrants “take” from or “make” for other people lead to an important, but sometimes overlooked, conclusion: African Americans (and other groups in the U.S.) are not affected (i.e., threatened or benefitted) uniformly by immigrants; the impact depends on one’s position in the labor market and on social, economic, political, and demographic features of the community or neighborhood in which one lives… Beyond that, people residing in the U.S. illegally are not allowed to receive most public benefits and supportive services funded by tax revenues.1

    Latinos’ harshest critics, who think most Latinos are illegal immigrants, accuse them of contributing little or nothing to the town, county, or state’s tax base while illegitimately taking disproportionately large amounts of publicly funded benefits and social services (e.g., in public health clinics or hospital emergency rooms; in food stamp or other welfare programs; in public schools’ remedial English or bilingual education programs). The idea that Latinos in the Southeast are not paying taxes (allegedly because they work “off the books” and get paid “under the table” in cash) is a myth that is fairly easy to disprove.

    First, high percentages of Latinos, including those who are here illegally, do work “on the books” and have taxes deducted from their paychecks as legally required.20 A recent study in Virginia (Cassidy & Okos 2008) estimates at least half of the illegal immigrants in that state work “on the books” (i.e., hold jobs in which payroll deductions are made for income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes), and the 2005 Economic Report of the President gives a national estimate of between 50% and 75%. Second, aside from payroll deductions, immigrants (legal and illegal) pay sales taxes, which fund state and local services, on items purchased, just like everyone else.

    Similarly with property taxes, which fund local public schools and other services, Latino homeowners must pay, and those who pay rent enable their landlords to pay property taxes on the apartment complexes they own (see Immigration Policy Center 2007, 2008)…, the point to stress about the context in the Southeast is that Latinos are not simply “free-riders” benefitting at the public’s expense – they are contributing members of the public.

  4. Michael Murphy says:

    I believe scott got elected on his strong stance on immigration something he failed on horribly.They couldnt even pass e-verify.Its funny I was driving through the woodlands a while back and came upon a sign reading YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK,I think they were doing work on a pump station.5 workers 1 white 4 latino.The white guy was on the phone in the truck so I asked the latinos what they were fixing,Surprise no english.The goverment and immigrant groups will try to make us believe immigrants are only doing farm work you know the work us Americans wont do,Do they take us as a bunch of fools they are taking over construction,factory,meat packing business,and how safe is it knowing there handleing most of our food supply.As for them putting money back into the economy ever go by a western union at noon on a friday.If you think Im a ranting racist next time you drive by a construction site take a look at the workers.

  5. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Liana, nice cogent roundup of the problem. It’s pattern that’s as old as imigration. Newcomers always took the worst jobs, as the saying goes, jobs that Americans won’t do and as they worked their way up the system, they got upwardly mobile, moved out the ghettoes, etc. We all know the story.

    Nothing has changed except, that early immigrants were vetted and didn’t become a burden on the tax payer. Now attitudes have changed and a lot of people think we should have open borders, no vetting and allow newcomers the full benefits of citizenship including the full welfare package as soon as they step foot on U.S. soil. That can’t and won’t work.

  6. Liana G says:

    LAC, open borders gives them the mobility to come and go freely without being exploited. A work visa does not give them entitlements to benefits. The main reason many jobs were/are shipped overseas is because of cheap labour. Just recently, workers in Haiti went on strike seeking $5.00 for a 12 hour work day, NOT $5.00 per hour. But the American corporations there – Levi, Disney, Nike, etc. got the American gov’t involved to pressure the Haitian gov’t to do their bidding. Local law enforcement was sent out to break up these strikes and an agreement was reached to give the workers an increase – the new wage, $3.50 for a 12 hour work day. One can also imagine the rest of the working conditions in these environments. I guess when plan parenthood gets defunded we will be able to keep these jobs right here with our increased labour force. We will be able to increase profits by reducing transportation costs and goods will be cheap enough to make consumption affordable.

  7. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Liana, of course, you must know the unions with their impossible demands forced companies to seek cheaper labor. Conditions in Haiti are worse than we can imagine, but even these conditions are better than not working at all.

    Why do you think PP being defunded will result in a higher birthrate. Free contraception will be available, so pregnacies can be avoided rather than aborted and if there is no financial consideration for motherhood, pregnacy will be avoided.

    Heaven forfend that people take control over their lives instead of waiting for nanny state politicians to confiscate more of the tax payers hard earned funds to pay for them.

  8. Liana G says:

    Lawabiding, you know this might actually work. Instead of having people trying to enter, the trend would reverse.

    Planned parenthood is about preventing pregnancies not aborting pregnancies so defunding it will take away this outlet and increasing pregnancies. Over population is the leading cause of poverty, hunger, and exploitation.

    Maybe a better solution would be to offer free vasectomy to interested males, but mandatory for every irresponsible male who has already fathered 2 kids without the means of taking care of them, and those with AIDS? The problem is that most males don’t like using the rubber even though it doubles as prevention against STD’s, whereas birth control pills do not. It does take two to tango you know.

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