Florida Senate approves disputed immigration reforms

Florida’s Senate has passed an immigration package that has raised concerns about racial profiling among Democrats, while supporters have argued it aims to force the federal government to deal with a migration “invasion.” The bill includes a range of requested measures from Governor Ron DeSantis, including funding for an “Unauthorized Alien Transport” program, amounting to $12 million. The governor has made immigration one of his top priorities for the current legislative session, which is due to end on May 5th.

In recent years, DeSantis and the legislature have enacted several changes aimed at clamping down on illegal immigration, such as the 2019 law banning so-called sanctuary cities. A federal appeals court has recently thrown out a constitutional challenge to this law, which has been widely welcomed by Republicans. 
The Senate bill, SB 1718, would require companies with over 25 employees to use the E-Verify system to check the immigration status of workers. It would enhance sanctions against businesses found to have hired undocumented immigrants, empower state law enforcement officers to conduct random audits checking compliance with the law, and increase penalties for human smuggling.

Some of the bill’s proposals, such as requiring medical centers to track how much they spend when treating undocumented individuals in emergency rooms, have caused some legislators to voice concerns over the potential results. Democrat Senator Jason Pizzo warned that such a move could stop undocumented rape victims from seeking medical help.

In order to establish its legitimacy, the measure would prohibit local governments from contributing funding to organizations which aim to offer identification to undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, the Senate’s measure will underscore that no driver’s licenses issued to undocumented migrants through other states would be recognized by Florida. 
The legislation would also transform a human-smuggling law, making it a felony for anyone knowingly entering Florida with an individual who has entered the United States illegally. Critics of the proposal argue that this could result in the arrest of individuals who travel across accompanying family members or friends who are undocumented immigrants.

While Democrats suggest that the bill targets minorities for profiling, Republicans argue that their intention is to force Federal officials to have a more active role in addressing the current immigration crisis. Republicans have claimed that over the past two years, more than five million people have attempted to enter the country illegally through the southern border, with federal officials currently seeing 660,000 migrants in line for processing.

Democrats further argue that immigration matters should be dealt with on a national level rather than being subject to state regulations. Meanwhile, former Florida Republican Party chairman and bill sponsor State Senator Blaise Ingoglia believes that the legislation will pressure the federal government into recognizing the gravity of the immigration problem that the country is facing.   
Despite the Senate voting 27-10 along party lines to pass the bill, this has been criticized by some segments of society, including a local pastor, who says the bill would make life harder for undocumented immigrants and their neighbors.

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