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Florida legislators want special session for AZ-style immigration law

6:44 PM, Jul 14, 2010   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - Two Tampa Bay area state legislators want to bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida as soon as next week.

The bills are written and they could be added to the agenda in Tallahassee as part of a special session on offshore drilling.

The law in Arizona has drawn protests, threats to boycott Major League Baseball's All-Star game, even a federal lawsuit.

But Rep. Kevin Ambler and Sen. Paula Dockery want to risk bringing all of that to the sunshine state, as fast as they can.

"These are very sensible approaches, taken from the Arizona lead, that we can initiate right now in the state of Florida," said Ambler, a Republican from Tampa.

Like in Arizona, during a traffic stop, police would be able to ask about immigration status, if there is "reasonable suspicion" the person might be here illegally.

Law enforcement would also use a tool called E-Verify, that checks someone's status in less than a minute.

"If we allow our illegal immigration numbers to continue to rise, then there's no message being sent that Florida is tough on illegal immigration, and more and more people will come here," said Dockery, a Republican from Lakeland.

The Hispanic Alliance of Tampa Bay represents 32 organizations across the area.

The group has already sent a letter to lawmakers and candidates around the state, highly critical of any proposed law like this one.

"It's going to turn into a racial profiling anyway, at least that's the way we see it," said Luis Lopez, President of the alliance.

If the bills are debated during the special session, the Hispanic Alliance plans to be there fighting.

"If we need to go to court, we will see them in court," Lopez said.

Governor Charlie Crist says he's not surprised by the timing of the bills.

"They probably have Republican primaries," Crist told 10Connects.

Dockery doesn't, but Ambler does.

He says, though, he's only looking out for the best interests of Floridians.

"It makes sense.  It's an efficient use of resources, and it's our first line of defense," Ambler explained.

Two-thirds of the House and Senate must say yes to put the issue on the special session agenda.

If that doesn't happen, Dockery expects to bring it back next full legislative session.

Adam Freeman, 10Connects

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