Florida Senate backs blueberry pickers over fighting terrorism in immigration debate
(Hispanic protesters from Palm Beach County filled the Senate visitor gallery, during Senate debate on an immigration bill. Some prayed during the debate. Scott Keeler, Times)
Obviously, that's an oversimplified headline. But it's also the essence of the two most important speeches during what was arguably the best debate of session: whether or not to require Florida businesses use an anti-immigration database known as e-Verify.
Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander (top left) recounted his first-person account of having trouble hiring enough workers to pick blueberries, saying the amendment from former Florida Republican Party Chairman John Thrasher would make hiring all but impossible. Alexander testified to the character of immigrant workers and said they have unfairly been put in the middle of an acrimonious debate. "I resent that I have to be asked to choose between hardworking people and somebody's uninformed knowledge," he said.
Thrasher (bottom left), meanwhile, said e-Verify was a matter of national security. He invoked the image of Osama bin Laden and said the Sept. 11 hijackers working in Florida might have been caught had e-Verify been in place.
The amendment was defeated 23-16 by a chamber controlled by a Republican super-majority. For more, check out the terrific blow-by-blow from reporter Patricia Mazzei.