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Nancy Smith

The Florida Compact on Immigration: The Key to Keep Driving the State Economy Forward

March 21, 2019 - 9:00am
Cartoonist: Bill Bramhall, New York Daily News
Cartoonist: Bill Bramhall, New York Daily News
Only California has a greater stake in the immigration conversation than Florida. Why? Because Florida's immigrants -- many in number, talent and drive -- contribute a ton to the state and national economies. 
 
Think that in 2017, immigrants spent $7.8 billion in state and local taxes, and wielded $91.9 billion a year in spending power. 
 
I've always believed Floridians have more reason than other states to be bullish on immigration's positives. We could, and should, lead the world in that regard -- that's how well they've paid off for the Sunshine State.
 
Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised to see the newly released Florida Compact on Immigration, a document signed by more than 70 business, civic and education leaders in the state. It comes as new data from New American Economy (NAE)’s Map the Impact, and shows just how much immigrant contributions add to Florida’s economy.
 
The compact is a set of key principles outlining the need for smart immigration policies at the state and federal levels to drive Florida's economy forward.
I Beg to Differ
It never loses sight of the fact that America is a nation of laws. But that doesn't mean it can't -- and does -- call for a federal immigration system that meets the needs of Florida’s employers and labor market; offers a way for undocumented Floridians who are contributing members of their communities and economies to stay legally and work; and provides for a secure, efficient southern border. It is supported by New American Economy, the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) and the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund (IMPAC).
 
Have a look at the whole of the Florida Compact on Immigration and its list of signatores by clicking here.
 
In the meantime, here are the six principles in the compact that signatores are urging state leaders and Florida's congressional delegation to adopt:
 
1. FEDERAL RESPONSIBILITY: Immigration policy is a federal issue between the U.S. government and other countries. Florida’s delegation in Congress should work to enact federal immigration policy that improves our immigration system, keeps our communities safe, and protects our borders.
 
​2. STRENGTHENING OUR ECONOMY & WORKFORCE: As the gateway to the Americas and Caribbean for commerce, culture and investment, Florida needs a robust workforce and policies that prioritize attracting and retaining international talent. Our immigration system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses while protecting the interests of workers. This includes a visa system that is both responsive and effective at meeting the demands of our economy. And it should acknowledge the critical role immigrants play in Florida’s economy as workers, taxpayers, and consumers. (As of 2017, immigrants contributed $7.8 billion in state and local taxes and held nearly $91.9 billion in spending power.)
 
3. A COMMON-SENSE APPROACH: Immigrants are part of our communities across Florida. A common-sense approach to this reality would reflect our values and recognizes the critical role immigration has played in our nation’s history and economy. Our immigration policies should provide a sensible path forward for immigrants who are here without legal status, are of good character, pay taxes, and are committed to becoming fully participating members of our society and culture — in particular, Florida Dreamers and TPS holders.
 
​4. EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT: A sensible and honorable law enforcement strategy would focus on public safety, target serious crime, and safeguard witnesses and victims. We need a reasonable and predictable regulatory environment that considers the interests of, and unintended consequences to businesses, the workforce, and consumers. A broader reform effort ultimately needs to include ways that accurately, reliably, and affordably determine who is permitted to work— and ensure an adequate workforce for a growing economy.
 
5. FAMILY: Strong families are critical to developing successful individuals and cohesive communities. Our immigration policies should prioritize keeping close families together so as to ensure the most supportive home environments for all children.
 
​6. COMPETITIVE COMMUNITIES: Communities that grow and attract talent are the ones who are welcoming to all. Local policies should nurture an environment that helps all residents to have the tools and opportunities they need to succeed.   
 
In a teleconference call with the press last week, some of the compact's signatores were on hand to explain what it should mean to Florida to have such a blueprint. Here's what they said: 
 
-- “In this era of partisanship, the Florida Compact shows that leaders across the political spectrum agree that America needs a better immigration system,” said John Feinblatt, president of New American Economy. “From health care to agriculture, broad immigration reform is critical to Florida’s economic growth.”
 
-- “Immigrants embody some of the best examples of the American Dream, and I’m proud to be part of a dynamic group of Florida leaders who will help drive the conversation forward and display the invaluable contributions of immigrants throughout our economy,” said Mike Fernandez, chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners. “Right now, it’s extremely vital that we promote these key principles and guide a productive discussion on immigration reform to attain the economic success Florida desires.”
 
-- State Sen. Anitere Flores added, “Immigration reform is a hurdle that needs to be solved at the federal level, but it affects us deeply right here in Florida. It’s up to us to educate and inform every Floridian about what reform would mean for the growth of their local communities. The Compact’s principles lay out the framework for what future solutions should look like, and I look forward to building support around the pillars that will make up a prosperous, economic future for Florida’s communities.”
 
-- “The history of our nation has witnessed the nearly immeasurable benefits of hardworking immigrants, and Florida is proud to be a key location of building an economy around that success. However, our work to attract the best and brightest to our schools and to our workforce is just beginning,” said Juan Carlos Bermudez, mayor of Doral. “Competition and employer demand has never been higher, and we must rise to the occasion and meet the opportunities right in front of us. Our future economy depends on the very successes laid out by the principles of this Florida Compact.”
 
-- “Immigrants are often some of the first individuals to start a business and invest in their local communities. By tapping into the resources described in the Florida Compact, we can help unleash our true potential,” said Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “I believe our state can lead the way on a meaningful conversation that can accomplish the goals of both employees and the immigrants seeking to make a difference in the economy.”
 
Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith
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