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Urging Florida Not to Follow Arizona, Connie Mack Takes on State GOP on Immigration

July 14, 2010 - 6:00pm

Taking on most of his fellow Republicans in the Sunshine State, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack reiterated his opposition to Florida passing an immigration law similar to the measure passed by Arizona earlier in the year.

Mack sent out a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist, the state Cabinet and every member of the Legislature urging them to reject bills similar to the Arizona law in next week's special session.

I believe strongly that the new immigration law in Arizonathat is set to take effect on July 29, 2010, is a large step in the wrong direction, wrote Mack. Like most Americans, I strongly believe that we must secure our borders and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. The Arizona immigration law, however, strikes a severe blow to individual freedom and the principles that make our nation strong.It puts some Americans at risk of losing their freedoms and having to prove their citizenship while others stand little or no chance of being affected.It is the wrong approach to addressing our nations immigration problems.

As you are surely aware, legislation modeled after the Arizona immigration law was recently filed in the Florida House and Senate, and there is speculation that it could be considered during next weeks special session in Tallahassee, wrote Mack. I strongly implore you not to make the same mistake as Arizona by passing similar legislation.

There is no question that we are at a crossroads, and that we must tackle the illegal immigration issue, concluded Mack. But we must not let fear and distrust fuel this debate and shape this legislation. Rather, let us commit ourselves to grow Florida as a unique state where tourism, technology, and pro-business elements dominate. Let us grow a Florida that we can be proud of and that leads by example for all citizens.And let us legislate responsibly, and with our hearts and minds focused on protecting the freedoms of all Floridians.

Mack is not the only Republican opposed to such measures. Former Gov. Jeb Bush also expressed his opposition to the Arizona law in an interview with Politico in April.

But Mack and Bush are clearly in the minority as Republicans in Tallahassee look to push an Arizona-style measure through the Legislature.

I support the current Arizona immigration law and encourage efforts to bring a similar law to the Sunshine State, said former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson on Thursday. Benson is currently running for the Republican attorney general nomination. We must protect our borders and ensure that immigrants living and working in our state are doing so legally.

Nor is Benson alone. A number of Republicans in both the House and the Senate, including Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, are looking to introduce measures in Florida mirroring the Arizona law. Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, who is running for a seat in the state Senate, Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, and Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, have been pushing immigration reform in the House.

The two leading Republican candidates in the race for governor, health care executive Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum, back a tougher immigration law in Florida. Earlier in the week, McCollum joined Arizona in defending its immigration law against a lawsuit launched by the Obama administration that maintains the measure violates civil rights.

I support the current law in Arizona, and I support efforts to see a similar law brought to our state, said McCollum on Wednesday. Seeing no action or leadership from the federal authorities, Arizona has every right to move to protect its citizens, and for this they are being sued by the president.

Despite an increasingly bitter contest with McCollum, Scott agreed with the attorney general on the need for tougher immigration laws in Florida.

I urge legislative leaders to include immigration reform in the special session, said Scott on Wednesday. Floridians overwhelmingly support an Arizona-style immigration law and it is just common sense.

The federal government has failed to do its job for far too long and the Obama administration has no intention of doing anything about it, so the states have to take matters into their own hands, Scott said.

A recent poll shows that backers of a tougher immigration law have momentum in Florida. A poll released by Rasmussen Reports this week showed that an Arizona-style measure has strong support from Floridians. The poll found 62 percent favoring that type of legislation, 24 percent opposing it and 14 percent undecided.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com, or at 850-727-0859.

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