MIAMI — Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that he believes the Legislature will pass a law next year that cracks down on illegal immigrants, despite lawmakers' failure to reach a consensus on the issue this year.
"If somebody is in our country illegally, and they're violating our laws, we ought to be able to ask them if they're legal or not. That's what I'd like to have happen," Scott told the Associated Press.
Local law enforcement officers are already allowed to ask the status of immigrants they arrest, but they don't have to answer.
And the Obama administration recently made mandatory its Secure Communities program that requires local law enforcement officers check the fingerprints of those they arrest against Homeland Security Department immigration databases. It was not immediately clear how Scott's proposal would differ from existing law.
Scott said he has not decided whether to push to make the federal government's E-Verify system mandatory for all companies operating in Florida. That system allows employers to know whether a new employee is a citizen or an immigrant who is eligible to work. Critics say it is burdensome for employers and makes too many errors.
Opposition by state agriculture and hospitality industry leaders to a mandatory E-Verify program was one of the major reasons attempts to pass an immigration law failed last session.
As one of his first acts in office, Scott issued an executive order to state agencies and their contractors to use E-Verify for new hires.
Scott said he would review the results of this existing program and talk to business leaders before deciding whether to push to advocate in favor of making E-Verify mandatory statewide.
"We'll see as we go through it," he said. "We have to look at what impact it has on our industries. Ultimately, I don't want to do anything that will end up in any racial profiling or anything unfair to legal immigrants."
Scott also reiterated his frustration with the federal government's inability to pass a national law to reform the country's immigration system.
"They should have a national immigration policy that everyone understands they're going to enforce, and they should have a work visa program that doesn't put our companies at a disadvantage, so there's not a greater incentive to move jobs out of this country," he said.