Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has proposed a tough new law aimed at curbing illegal immigration that he said would go further than a bill signed into law in Arizona.
“I think this is a law that is overdue in Florida and something that we’re very proud of today,” McCollum said at a Wednesday morning media event in Orlando.
"This legislation will provide new enforcement tools for protecting our citizens and will help our state fight the ongoing problem created by illegal immigration.
"Florida will not be a sanctuary state for illegal aliens.”
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McCollum, who is battling businessman Rick Scott for the GOP nomination for governor in Florida, said state Rep. Will Snyder intends to introduce the immigration bill at the next session of the legislature.
“The law will propose to mandate that police officers, when they make a stop, detention, or arrest, have to check to see if somebody’s status is legal or illegal,” McCollum said.
“Currently they are permitted to do [but not required] so it’s voluntary.
“They also, at the time they stop or arrest somebody, will have to have a reasonable suspicion that that person is an illegal before they make that check.
“And there is a specific provision in the bill that says there shall not be any racial profiling.”
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum
McCollum said the Florida proposal goes “one step further” than the law in Arizona. The Obama administration opposed the Arizona measure, and a federal judge has blocked the law’s most controversial provisions.
“We will allow judges to consider a defendant’s immigration status when setting bond,” McCollum explained. “Someone is more likely to flee the country if they’re here illegally and they’ve committed a crime.
“It allows the attorney general to sue any official or agency that implements a policy that restricts the enforcement of immigration laws. Under the Arizona law citizens can sue. Under our proposal we think it’s more prudent to have the attorney general have the right to sue.”
The bill would allow judges to consider immigration status during sentencing and allow enhanced penalties against illegals who commit crimes. And it requires that aliens carry immigration documentation or face a possible misdemeanor penalty of up to 20 days in jail for the first offense.
“We also require that Florida businesses use E-Verify [an Internet-based program run by the federal government] to assure that people they hire are authorized to work,” McCollum told reporters.
“And we have in this law a safe harbor provision that says that if businesses do make this check and are told that somebody is legal, and then they later discover they are not legal, they’re protected from being fined.”
The law was crafted to survive the constitutional challenges that watered down the Arizona legislation, McCollum said, adding: "I think Arizona is going to want this law.”
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