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Immigrant supporters attack lawmakers with Miami radio ads

A group of immigration advocates in Miami is turning up the heat on lawmakers over an illegal immigration crackdown proposed in Tallahassee.

Starting on Wednesday, three organizations — Democracia Inc., SEIU Florida and America's Voice Education Fund — will begin airing Spanish-language radio advertisements calling out two Miami Republicans, Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

The spots attack the legislators for "betraying Florida's Hispanics" by "supporting" a pair of proposals moving through the state Legislature.

Lopez-Cantera, however, has said he is against the Florida House measure. So is Flores, though she is sponsoring a different version of the bill in the Senate.

"An anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic law hurts, but it hurts much more when one of us supports it," the minute-long ad says in Spanish. Flores and Lopez-Cantera are Cuban-American.

Critics liken the proposed legislation to a controversial immigration law approved last year in Arizona. The courts blocked parts of the law from being enforced. Proponents in Florida say that, absent federal immigration reform, the state needs to ensure the nation's laws are followed.

The House bill, headed to a full chamber hearing, would require police to check the immigration status of a person who is the subject of a criminal investigation if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person might be undocumented. Employers would be mandated to check employees' immigration status.

Its Senate counterpart would not go quite as far. It would have police check the status of an inmate, not just a person under investigation, and give employers more wiggle room on how to ascertain if employees are legally allowed to work.

Flores, whose measure hit a roadblock in a budget committee last week, has argued that the bill would be harsher if she were not in charge. "I'm able to bring the sensitivities of my community," she said last week in an interview, where she added that the House version "goes much too far." Flores could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Lopez-Cantera, the House majority leader and chairman of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation, reiterated Tuesday that he plans to vote against the proposal.

"Florida doesn't need an immigration law," he said.

Jorge Mursuli, president and CEO of Democracia, said he was under the impression that Lopez-Cantera backed the bill. After hearing late Tuesday about Lopez-Cantera's position, Mursuli said the group would reconsider the ad against him.

Republican leaders in the Legislature — namely Senate President Mike Haridopolos of Merritt Island, who is running for U.S. Senate — are under pressure to crack down on illegal immigration from tea party conservatives who were instrumental in last year's election of Gov. Rick Scott.

The issue polls well in Florida — except among Hispanics, a key voting bloc. Some Republicans looking to the 2012 presidential election worry passing an immigration law could further alienate Hispanic voters from the GOP.

Patricia Mazzei can be reached at pmazzei@miamiherald.com.

Immigrant supporters attack lawmakers with Miami radio ads 04/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 10:43am]
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