Florida has joined Arizona on the front lines of battling illegal immigration with a new bill released this week that seeks to crack down on the estimated 800,000 undocumented workers in the state.
The bill, filed by state Sen. Michael Bennett, allows law enforcement officers to check the residency status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant and would punish some legal immigrants who aren’t carrying proper documentation.
Florida has been flirting with releasing an immigration bill since the summer when outgoing state Attorney General Bill McCollum wrote a similar proposal with state Rep. William Snyder. But Snyder has yet to file that bill.
Snyder told FoxNews.com that he’s in no rush to file his bill and expects to unveil it next month. He said he is consulting with state Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi and minority communities who are concerned about the bill promoting racial profiling.
“Filing a bill is just pushing a button,” he said. “I could do that in instant. Getting people behind the bill is what legislation is all about.”
Bennett could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott, who campaigned on cracking down on illegal immigrants in the state, did not return a message seeking comment.
Bondi said she is still reviewing the details of Bennett’s bill but expressed support for such a law.
“I am committed to working with the legislature in support of an immigration law for Florida that protects the public, guards against racial profiling and upholds the rule of law,” she said in a written statement to FoxNews.com. “I will stand up to any effort by the federal government to stop Florida from implementing such a law.”
Like Snyder’s bill, Bennett’s measure would allow law enforcement officers to check immigration documents during a lawful detention if they suspect the detainee is not in the country legally. But the bill bans the use of race or ethnicity as a reason to check immigration papers. Immigrants who are caught not carrying their documents face a fine of up to $100 and up to 20 days in jail.
Arizona’s immigration law ignited a firestorm of criticism when it was passed earlier this year, including legal challenges from the Obama administration and civil rights groups. A U.S. District Court judge blocked key provisions in the summer as the battle between Arizona and the federal government continues, possibly heading to the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, though, several states are working to pass similar bills. As of last month, six other states have filled Arizona-style immigration bills, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Snyder said he’s confident that his bill will withstand legal challenges because it is simply enforcing existing federal laws.
“People pushing back think it would create a whole new genre of law,” he said. “We’re not.”
Snyder added that he supports legal immigration.
“I think there are people who are against illegal immigration and there’s a whole separate group for open borders,” he said. “Those people are using my bill as a platform to rail against any immigration law.”
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