Many immigrants in Florida were closely watching as two bills were introduced in the State Legislature recently. The two bills would have significantly increased the penalties for undocumented immigrants, prohibited Florida cities from declaring themselves sanctuaries for immigrants and would have required local law enforcement authorities to work with federal agencies in enforcing U.S. immigration law.
Any momentum the bills had came to a screeching halt last month when Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced he would not schedule hearings on them. The decision by Senator Diaz de la Portillo effectively killed any consideration of the bills in this legislative session.
In opposing the bills, the Senator had the support of a number of Florida residents, including a group of about 100 people who showed up at the State Capitol to protest against the proposed laws. Immigrant rights groups and labor unions led the protests and like Senator Diaz de la Portillo, argued the bills were nothing more than another form of discrimination against immigrants.
Unfortunately, in this presidential election year immigration has become a politically charged issue. While the two Florida bills may be dead in the water for now, immigrants and their families continue to feel the stress of not feeling secure in their new homeland.
Fortunately, many immigrants in Florida still have the opportunity to achieve permanent residency status and ultimately citizenship. Whether one is pursuing green card, a work visa, family visa, political asylum or naturalization, understanding the complex procedures of U.S. immigration law is critical.
Source: Naples Daily News, “Immigration bill protestors find a friend in Tallahassee,” Arek Sarkissian, Feb. 17, 2016