Florida Senate rejects e-Verify amendment of controversial immigration bill

05/03/11 Kate Bradshaw
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A late-filed amendment filed by Senator John thrasher that would have required state employers to use e-Verify failed during the Senate’s debate of a controversial Arizona-style immigration bill. That amendment would fine businesses up to $1,500 for each worker found to be unauthorized to work in the US. While his Senate colleagues had harsh criticisms of the federal E-verify system, Thrasher defended the system.

"There aren't a lot of perfect systems out there for doing what we want to do with e-Verify, but it is probably the best we have today in respect to the technology that's available. And so this amendment basically does a couple of things, utilizing e-Verify as a vehicle. It requires that state agencies, effective July 1 of this year—of 2012, excuse me—use e-Verify to verify the employment eligibility of prospective employees before extending an offer to them."

Thrasher even implied that some of the 9/11 terrorists wouldn’t have found refuge in Florida had e-verify been in place.

The bill, SB 2040, has attracted hundreds of protesters to Tallahassee, and even led activists to call for a boycott of Florida if it passes. The Senate took up the bill this afternoon. Senate President Mike Haridopolos started discussion of SB 2040 by saying the debate was going to be contentious.

"Regardless of what the vote is today, we want to send a message that this is still the most incredible place to live, not only in America, but what the world. And that what we want to do is understand why people want to come to this country."

This morning, Senator JD Alexander, a Republican from Lake Wales, filed a strike-all amendment requiring state and local agencies to use e-verify to check the status of those seeking public benefits, among other things.

"The amendment today, that I'm offering, requires the state's one-stop career centers to use e-Verify, which is the federal government's Internet-based employment-verification system, for every worker that they refer to an employer. They would also certify to an employer that the verification has been done."

The amendment would also encourage law enforcement to do the same those who get arrested. He said, unlike its House counterpart, as amended, there’s one key thing SB 2040 doesn’t do.

"This amendment does not include mandatory use of e-Verify for public or private employers."

Even as discussion got bogged down over amendments, what emerged was a debate over the overall bill, which mimics a harsh Anti-immigration bill passed in Arizona last year. In an emotional plea to her colleagues, Senator Gwen Margolis asked why immigrants have become so stigmatized in recent years.

"What is wrong? What in the world is wrong? What is happening in this state? In [Miami-]Dade County, everybody speaks another language. You don't even get a job if you don't speak another language. That's the way it is. That's where we live. This is where I grew up. This is what's important. What's important is people have to live and they have to work, and I couldn't vote for this in a million years."

As of air time, the Senate is still debating SB 2040, originally filed by Miami Republican Anitere Flores. Governor Rick Scott has advocated an Arizona-style immigration law since his election campaign last year.

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