Immigrants and supporters oppose harsh immigration bills in Tallahassee - interview with Rev. Charles McKenzie
Immigrants and their supporters spoke in Tallahassee yesterday to oppose a bill they say is eerily similar to a harsh Arizona law that cracks down on immigrants. One local participant at the Senate Budget Committee meeting was Rev. Charles McKenzie. He is state coordinator of Rainbow PUSH Coalition and a volunteer with Unidos Now. WMNF spoke with him this afternoon about immigration bills being considered by the Florida Legislature.
"We went into the session and the executive in charge of the gathering said right away that they were not going to consider the Snyder bill yesterday. That they were going to postpone it until today. Some members of the groups that we worked along with we of Florida went up and protested to some extent. The fact that so many were there and they were there for that purpose and to have the agenda just moved like that, he felt was unfair. And at that point the chairman decided to allow some people to speak and I was asked by some members of the delegation to go up and speak on behalf of their efforts."
What is the Snyder bill, what kind of things would it change if it's passed?
"Well, the Snyder bill, some people refer to it as the e-verify, we like to call it the anti-immigrant bill. It essentially would, at a time when we're in the midst of one of the greatest financial crisis in this country, increase costs into the billions of dollars to provide additional detention centers, more police officers, more man-hours, more resources, to deport what has been cast as some 800,000 to a 1,000,000 undocumented workers in this state, to deport them, to get rid of them. It would not create any jobs in terms of the kinds of jobs we need in this state right now. The kind of thing that Governor Scott is pushing. What it would do is increase huge costs to the public at a time when we're talking about decreasing taxes and certainly decreasing the tax burden on corporations we want to increase the burden on the citizenry."
In your opinion, what's the most draconian aspect of the immigration legislation that's going through Tallahassee right now?
"I think the most draconian element of it is that it's a racial profiling bill. It essentially, with no scientific instruments whatsoever to come up with a formula to determine who's legal and who is not legal. It profiles people of a certain ethnic orientation and I recall that the police chief in Arizona said that he could determine who was an illegal by simply looking at their shoes. This is the kind of illogic that is driving the draconian aspects of this bill."
You mentioned the immigration detention centers, there's a push afoot to build a new detention center in south Florida. If you don't think that's a good idea, why not?
"It is all a part of a larger effort on the part of some right wing political ideologues and elected officials to privatize the prison industry. By doing so they put resources into the coffers of people who are likely to support them when they run for office and it gives them millions of dollars to do the kinds of things they want to do in government in this state. It's an effort to privatize prisons and we've seen across the country the mammoth impact, and very cruel impact of this prison industrial complex. It's all a part of that privatizing prisons, extending sentences, that hinges on the very cruel and unusual because you have these lobbyists and you have these private industries who's bottom line is the profit motive. It's all a part of the larger scheme that is disingenuous."
Thank you, those are my only questions, is there anything else you'd like to add about the immigration legislation in Tallahassee?
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"Well, I want to say this, that another reason I was in Tallahassee is I believe, as Dr. King said, 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. What affects one directly effects all indirectly.' And to those who feel that this is beyond the scope of their experience and concern, anytime you allow the cancer of injustice to spread, it eventually gets to your doorstep. The chickens do, to borrow a phrase from another high profile American, do eventually come home to roost and they will bite us. So we need to be front and center dealing with these kinds of issues which things that are unfair, things that are un-American, things that go against the fundamental principles of egalitarian democracy in this country. I would say that to the people and I want to say this very, very quickly also, that of the 13 pages that were dedicated to analyze the Snyder bill and it's implications, only one of them has really seriously been considered and weighed. Nothing has been done to deal with the mammoth costs involved in this and there are even some Republicans who oppose it on fiscal terms. They say, 'where is the money going to come from to pay for this?' and 'what does it do to create jobs?' What does it do to create the kinds of jobs that we need in this state to turn the economy around? So for moral reasons, and even economic ones, all Floridians of conscience and all thinking Floridians need to oppose these actions."