Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: A shameful campaign ad sheds heat where Florida’s immigration debate needs light

Even by the gutter standards of modern times, the television ad that Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran began to air this week is despicable. The ad uses the accidental death of a woman in California to frame a national debate on immigration through the lens of a terrified white woman being gunned down by a bearded man in a hoodie. Race-baiting is not a leadership skill, it’s a bad look for anyone who wants to be governor, and it also doesn’t serve the interests of America’s third-largest state in crafting a smarter immigration policy. That debate needs less heat, more light and a sharper focus on the realities of where reasonable people can agree.

The ad shows a young, red-haired woman walking through a suburban neighborhood, smiling and texting as she passes a hooded man on a sidewalk. As the two pass, he pulls a gun from his pocket and she turns toward him, terrified as the camera pans straight down the barrel. Then a shot rings out. Emily L. Mahoney of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reported Tuesday that Corcoran’s political action committee, Watchdog PAC, had already spent $95,560 to run the 30-second spot more than 700 times on Fox News channels this week in some of Florida’s biggest media markets, including the Tampa Bay area, Jacksonville and Orlando.

This cynical barrage all but ends any pretense that Corcoran is waiting until the legislative session ends in March to decide whether to run for governor this year. He has made a crackdown on illegal immigration a central focus this session, pushing a bill through the House in its opening week that would prohibit any so-called "sanctuary city" policies that restrict local police from fully cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

In the ad, Corcoran evokes the death of Kathryn Steinle, a young white woman shot and killed in San Francisco in 2015. Police charged a Mexican national, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, in her death; he had been deported multiple times and was freed prior to the shooting by local authorities who declined to use a drug charge as the basis to turn Garcia Zarate over to immigration agents. A jury acquitted him of murder and manslaughter charges last year after the defense argued the shot was fired accidentally, with the bullet ricocheting off the ground and striking Steinle in the back. He was, however, convicted on firearms charges.

Republicans seized on the case and have not let up since the verdict, calling it a symbol of liberal policies in urban centers, despite the jury’s decision. Corcoran has said that Florida has two "sanctuary cities" — St. Petersburg and Tallahassee. His TV ad ends with a screen shot: "End sanctuary cities."

There is no legal definition of a "sanctuary city;" it is a loaded term some Republicans use to deride the widely varying policies that many cities have for complying with federal requests to detain suspected illegal immigrants. In virtually all these cases, county sheriffs, who operate the jails, are merely attempting to comply with court rulings governing the flexibility local jurisdictions have to hold immigration suspects for federal authorities. After months of work, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri succeeded recently in crafting an agreement between several sheriffs and Immigration and Customs Enforcement that is expected to be a statewide and national model.

It’s no wonder that Florida Republicans looking to energize the conservative base would use liberal cities like San Francisco as targets. But it doesn’t excuse painting a false picture of what is happening in our state, dividing Florida further along ethnic and racial lines. This is demagoguery masquerading as public policy. And it does nothing to solve the real problem.

America’s immigration system needs a thorough overhaul, and law enforcement at every level can be improved to strengthen public safety. But the focus needs to be on getting undocumented immigrants out of the darkness and onto a practical, orderly path to legal residency. Think about this: The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that at least six out of 10 of America’s farm workers are undocumented. Florida, with its large population of undocumented workers engaged in agriculture, construction and other core industries, should be leading the way in establishing a viable framework for bringing the millions in this underground economy into the mainstream. But that won’t happen if Florida leaders imagine those hands pulling a trigger instead of picking a strawberry — or turning the page of a textbook in college.

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Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18