State Human Rights Commission warns Avon Park on illegal immigrant Ordinance by Mitch E. Perry

07/14/06

Last night, the Evening News broadcast a story on the Florida city of Avon Park’s proposed new ordinance clamping down hard on illegal immigration.

The measure – closely modeled on a similar proposal in Hazeltown, Pensylvania, would deny business permits to companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The ordinance would also make English the official language of Avon Park, removing Spanish from all city documents, signs, and automated phone messages.

Mayor Tom Macklin says he’s compelled to make such measures because of the federal government’s failure to crack down on illegal immigration.

But those plans could be in trouble. The Florida Commission on Human Relations today raised concerns with the proposed ordinance. Leah Barber-Heinz is the public information director with the Florida Commission on Human Relations LBH: (roll tape#1 o.q.�)

We are concerned about the adverse impacts that the ordinance could have in the community. We know that 1 in every 5 residents in Avon Park are Hispanic. So we worry that landlords and others who might not want to deal with whether someone is documented or undocumented might just prefer not to rent to Hispanic people altogether. So we’re concerned about racial and ethic profiling. We’re concerned about the divisive nature of the issue,and that hate crimes could result from the tension and the things that could come down from the city’s public officials in passing an ordinance like this.

MP: Leah, let me ask you. You’ve seen the Ordinance, your group has seen the ordinance. As it stands now, your agency is charged with enforcing the Florida Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act. As it stands now, as it stands now, does it appear to be illegal to you, as it’s written?

LBH: We are not taking that position at this point, we’re more concerned with the implementation of the ordinance and what would result after the fact – and if there would be discriminatory and unlawful actions that would result during the implementation process. So at this particular we are not taking that position.

MP: You’re saying that you’re going to wait and see if this is in fact passed and then how it plays out…And if there are acts of discrimination that are observed, experienced, then you’re group may get involved at that point?

LBH: That’s correct and we have sent a letter to the Mayor and all the Council Members in Avon Park and have let them know that we have these concerns and that we will be monitoring the situation closely during implementation and that we will take action if we think that Florida laws have been violated in any way.�


(roll tape) MP: That’s Leah Barber-Heinz, a spokesperson for the Florida Commision on Human Relations..

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