Floridians are paying close attention as state lawmakers begin to craft a tough, Arizona-style immigration law that would grant law enforcement officials broad authority to act as immigration investigators, says the St. Petersburg Times. Criminal suspects and traffic law violators would need to show proof of legal residency if questioned. Insufficient documentation could result in a trip to a local federal detention center. State Rep. William Snyder, a former police officer, said he aims to help illegal immigrants whose deportation fears make them easy prey for abusive employers and violent criminals.
The prospect of the law limiting the use of scarce tax dollars for health care, education, law enforcement and other government services for the state’s 720,000 undocumented residents – the third largest in the nation – could also create a receptive political environment. Opponents maintain that an Arizona-style solution to Florida’s sprawling illegal population will do more harm than good. They raise the specter of tourism boycotts and say the state’s many Latin American business partners could interpret the law as an unfriendly, or, worse, racist gesture. They also argue that overwhelmed police might have less time to pursue violent suspects and that undocumented workers could move further into secret underworlds of illegal employment.