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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Immigration reform bills would create a 'black eye' for Florida, critics say



Opponents of controversial Arizona-style immigration reform bills moving swiftly through the Florida Legislature had harsh words for the proposals and its sponsors -- including Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican -- an hour before Flores' bill was scheduled for a committee hearing Monday.

"Arizona has a black eye in the world," said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat. "We don't need that black eye in Florida."

She and two other Democrats, Sen. Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens and Rep. Dwight Bullard of South Miami-Dade, decried the proposals as taking attention away from the state's economic woes, which lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have said are their priority. "We've got a solution looking for a problem," Braynon said.

Members of the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union cautioned that the Florida bills could lead to racial profiling. They also warned that any law would almost certainly face costly legal and constitutional challenges and urged lawmakers to wait for the lawsuits against Arizona's controversial law to make their way through the courts.

One critic, Jose Luis Marantes, the Hialeah-raised son of Cuban immigrants and member of the United We Dream network, showed an ultrasound photo of his unborn baby and said he does not want to raise a child in a state where a law could discrimante against him for his ethnicity.

"It is despicable," Marantes said. "I ask our legislators to have compassion."

[Last modified: Monday, March 14, 2011 12:52pm]


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