Rep. William Snyder’s (R, Stuart) proposal to halt illegal immigration cleared the Economic Affairs Committee of the Florida House on an 11-7 vote late last week. Snyder’s bill, which will now go to the full House, allows police to ask for proof of residency for anyone under investigation. Additionally, any company with more than 100 employees would have to document residency for employment. Similar to Arizona’s infamous law, Snyder’s bill goes well beyond what is mandated by the Federal government. However, things aren’t just one big tea party in Florida over this. The tea has grown cold and slightly bitter over time.
Gov. Rick Scott (R) made similar legislation a centerpiece of his campaign and supports the tough requirements being put forward in the Snyder bill. However, things are not so crystal clear for the Republican party at large in Florida. Even the normal cheerleading of the Florida Chamber of Commerce for the Republican party has become muted over this issue. Adam Babbington, a Florida Chamber lobbyist, stated before the House committee, “The mere consideration of this bill is causing the image of the state of Florida to be tarnished.” Of course, he is exactly right. Draconian state legislation is no substitute for a real and effective federal immigration policy.
Rage has already been building in Florida’s immigrant communities over the content of the bill. Even traditionally staunch Republican supporters such as Miami’s Cuban exile community have not been supportive of the Governor and the legislature on this issue. Ana Navarro, a Republican activist, fundraiser, and former McCain staffer was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying, “If they pass something that is viewed as anything similar to [the] Arizona law, it could very well wind up costing us Florida in the 2012 presidential election.” Hispanic backlash against the Republican party could be a decisive factor in 2012 given the variables that may make 2012 a close race. If Obama’s approval ratings are in the 40’s and unemployment is still north of 8%, Florida may once again play the pivotal role of uber-swingstate and decide who wins the next election. If this issue is the cause, Republicans have only themselves to blame.