In a sign that hard-core Republican legislators intend to press their case at the Florida Legislature, lawmakers this week filed bills that would impose a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, and that would repeal the law adopted last year that enabled Jose Godinez-Samperio, an undocumented immigrant, to become a practicing lawyer.
Godinez-Samperino is a native of Mexico brought to the United States by his parents when he was 9 years old. The family stayed in the country after its visa expired, rendering them undocumented immigrants. Godinez-Samperio grew up in Florida, attended school, college and law school at Florida State University. He then passed the bar exam but was not admitted to the bar.
The board of bar examiners (not the bar, as was inaccurately noted in a previous version of this story) sought the Florida Supreme Court’s help. Godinez-Samperino was represented by former American Bar Association President Sandy D’Alemberte. The Supreme Court was sympathetic. But it couldn’t act absent a change in law. The court urged the Florida Legislature to make that happen. Improbably, given its generally harsh attitude toward uncodumented immigrants, the Legislature did, specifying that qualifying individuals must have lived in the United States at least 10 years and registered for the military draft.
On May 1, 2014, the House voted 79-37 in favor of backing Godinez-Samperio to practice law. The Senate had voted 25-12 for it. (Travis Hutson, Flagler’s representative and the Republican candidate for a state Senate seat, voted against; then-Sen. John Thrasher voted for it.) Gov. Rick Scott signed it. Godinez-Samperio has since been practicing law in the Tampa Bay area for a non-profit legal services firm.
On Thursday, Rep. John Tobia, the Melbourne Beach Republican who’d opposed the bill last year, filed a bill of his own that would repeal the Godinez-Samperio law. The one-page bill is not proposal so much as erasure: it strikes the 13 lines added to Florida law last year. Tobia was elected to the House in 2008.
It is unlikely that the bill will have more than a symbolic impact in the session starting in early March. But its filing reflects a continuing opposition in segments of Florida to measures inspired by the federal “Dream Act,” the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that gives children of undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the United States fair route to education, jobs and citizenship.
Tobia filed the bill Thursday. The same day, Sen. Anitere Flores, the Miami Republican, filed a bill that would add a 24-hour waiting period to a law that already requires women seeking an abortion to receive counseling first.
Flores’s is the latest in a continuing assault across the nation on abortion rights. In legislative sessions last year, the Guttmacher Institute reported, “lawmakers introduced 335 provisions aimed at restricting access to abortion. By the end of the year, 15 states had enacted 26 new abortion restrictions. Including these new provisions, states have adopted 231 new abortion restrictions since the 2010 midterm elections swept abortion opponents into power in state capitals across the country.”
Florida is one of 18 states the Institute ranks as “extremely hostile” to abortion rights, and one of 27 states ranked hostile.
At the same time, legislators in 17 states introduced 95 measures to expand access to abortion, more than in any year since 1990.