TAMPA, Florida - A controversial twist on a controversial Arizona-style immigration law could exempt aliens from Canada and Western European countries from strict new rules.
A draft immigration reform bill, authored by State Rep. William Snyder (R-Stuart) and initially supported by Governor-Elect Rick Scott, aims to establish the legal presence of anyone pulled over in a traffic stop.
However, the bill instructs law enforcement to presume a person is in the United States legally if he/she possesses a Canadian I.D. or passport from a "visa waiver country" - a distinction almost exclusive to Western Europe. South American and Central American countries are not included on the list.
"You cannot profile people in that way," said Tampa immigration lawyer William J. Flynn, III. "It's the most basic constitutional doctrine along with due process."
Flynn said the "presumed legal" portion of the bill - even if included in a law someday - would likely be thrown out in court.
However, the bill's author says the law doesn't provide any racial or regional bias when an officer is pulling someone over. It only allows provisions for aliens from "trusted" countries who aren't required to travel with as much documentation.
"We shouldn't allow the fear of profiling to prevent us from enforcing federal immigration laws," said Flynn. "There are a lot of Floridians that want to see state and local assistance be given to the federal government."
He has also acknowledged in the past that the Canadian provision was to prevent a hit to tourism. But there are no exemptions in his draft for the millions of South American and Central American tourists who visit Florida annually.
"Everything in the draft is negotiable," Flynn said.
In his first press conference since the election, Governor-Elect Scott took a step back from his campaign promise of bringing the Arizona immigration law to Florida.
"I'll be sitting down with the federal government to make sure I understand what they're doing, but we're going to make sure the federal government does their job," he said. "We need to make sure we have an immigration policy that works for all of Floridians."
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