The comments below are from a concerned Floridian and not necessarily those of FLIMEN.
Honorable members of the Committee on State Affairs -
Thank you for hearing testimony regarding the illegal immigrations bills before the House at your meeting on Tuesday, April 8th. As you well know, the illegal immigration debate is very emotional. I hope that the words of the bills' supporters have shown you that we are not racists or xenophobes; we merely want the rule of law enforced.
I would like to address several points made by illegal immigrant supporters at the meeting.
1.) the gentleman who said it is OK to break the law to support families (1:55:35 on the meeting video file)
Illegal immigrants and their supporters use "family unity" as an excuse for breaking the laws. They say that it is unfair to deport illegal immigrant parents of US-born children because it will split the family apart. Not true - these children are not being held in the United States. The parents can and should take their children back to their home country (where the children are also citizens) if they feel family unity is a top priority. Those children can, as US citizens, return to the United States as they please to live and work. These parents know they can be deported, so to have children in the US and then try to use those children as some sort of shield against deportation is wrong. The United States and Florida should reject this reasoning.
Another point to be made is that many immigrants (legal and illegal) use the term "family" to mean the extended family (uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, nephews, nieces, parents, grandparents). Again, the United States and Florida should not allow immigrants' desires to have their entire extended family live here as a reason for not deporting those here illegally.
2.) the woman who said the United States can take care of everyone (1:57:45)
Gas is very close to $3.50 a gallon in many parts of Florida. The US dollar has lost much of its value in the last year. Many economists believe the US is either headed for a recession or is already in one. People are being laid off left and right. Government budgets are strained.
It would certainly be nice if the United States had infinite room and infinite wealth to take care of everyone who wants to come here, but we don't. The US is facing one of its worst economic periods since The Great Depression. Therefore, it is imperative that we have control of the immigration process to allow in only as many people as we can successfully absorb and assimilate without causing catastrophic failure of our social services.
3.) the woman who said having law enforcement perform immigration tasks is bad for public safety because immigrants will not come forward to report crimes (2:03:55)
I heard Sheriff Don Hunter of Collier County speak once on this issue, and he has collected data that indicates this is simply not true; the rate of crime reporting by illegal immigrants has not changed in places where local law enforcement has begun to enforce immigration laws under the 287g certification. I do not have all the facts and figures from Sheriff, but I felt it was important to mention his findings.
4.) Representatives Zapata's closing comments (2:21:10)
a.) He implied that those of us who are Americans by birth (rather than by choice) are merely "lucky" and have less of an appreciation and understanding of the greatness of this country. This is not only insulting, but is also flat out wrong. Native-born Americans have just as much love and appreciation (in most cases, probably more) for their country as immigrants. However, we also understand that one reason America became a great nation is that we are a nation of laws. Illegal immigrants, however, seem to think it is permissible to break a few laws if that is the only way to get into and work in America.
b.) He said that immigrants are not coming here motivated by greed, but rather because we have done a good job of selling America to the rest of the world. While I will agree with him that the desire of immigrants to have a better life for themselves and their families could not rightly be called "greed", the fact that America is well known throughout the world as a land of opportunity is NOT an open invitation for anyone and everyone to pick up and move here illegally. We encourage people that wish to come to America to do so, but only by LEGAL means.
c.) He said that companies who offered jobs to illegal immigrants began the illegal immigration problem. YES! We agree that companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants - or fail to perform due diligence in verifying a potential worker's status - shoulder much of the blame, and the proposed bills address this. It is important to note, however, that the illegal immigrants themselves are not blameless. They know they are not here legally, and must be held accountable for that.
d.) He commented that the immigration debate has an anti-Hispanic tone. This is true to some degree because 80% of illegal immigrants are Hispanic - 56% from Mexico and 24% from the rest of Latin America. It is useless for either side of this debate to ignore that fact. However, none of the proposed bills contain the words "Hispanic", "Latino", "Mexican" (or any other nationality), or "Spanish-speaking". Rather, they address illegal immigration across the board. Is Representative Zapata suggesting we should not enforce laws where the majority of those who break the law belong to one ethnic group? What if 80% of all check fraud was committed by African-Americans? What if 80% of all thefts were committed by whites of, say, English ancestry? Would we choose to ignore those laws? Of course not. Representative Zapata and other Hispanics are right to oppose any anti-Hispanic undertone of the illegal immigration debate. However, he should consider that immigration reformists are often unfairly labeled as "racists" even though most go to great lengths to ensure their tone and language encompass all illegal immigrants. Unfair accusations of racism go both ways, Representative Zapata.
e.) He said he was insulted that the word "terrorist" was brought into the debate. Few, if any, immigration reformists would disagree that most illegal immigrants are not violent criminals or terrorists, and are here merely to work. However, the point of the FDLE reference was that all sorts of undesirable people - terrorists AND criminal immigrants - either enter the US on fraudulent visas, overstay their legitimate visas, or enter with no visas whatsoever. I do not want criminal immigrants to enter and stay in the United States any more than I want terrorists to do so.
5.) Representatives Rivera's closing comments (2:24:40)
a.) He stated that we must consider the contributions of illegal immigrants, and listed many occupations typically held by them. These points have no relevance in this debate. The contributions of illegal immigrants to the economy, and the jobs they typically perform, have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are living and working in Florida illegally.
b.) He pointed out that illegal immigrants pay sales tax, tolls, and (indirectly) property tax and corporate income tax. These are taxes that no one - from citizens to legal residents to illegal immigrants - can avoid. When immigration reform proponents say that illegal immigrants do not pay taxes, the reference is to the personal income taxes that many (if not most) illegal immigrants do not pay.
c.) He said that he believes in market forces. Is Representative Rivera implying that the US and Florida should leave businesses unmonitored so they can do whatever they want in their quest for the almighty dollar?
d.) He indicated that three of Florida's largest industries - agriculture, tourism, and construction - would collapse if employers were held to immigration laws. First, it is virtually an impossibility that these occupations would collapse or even come close to it. In the world of supply and demand, industries will be able to find a supply of workers and pay them decent wages because there is no shortage of demand for fruits and vegetables, for new houses and offices, and for tourist accommodations. Second, if these industries have become overly dependent on cheap illegal labor, then a correction is in order. Breaking the law simply because obeying the law would cost more money is an insult to the principles of this great state and its citizens.
As was stated in the meeting many times, this issue fundamentally comes down to right and wrong. Yes, the process to get legal immigrants into the country quickly is broken, and the federal government must fix it. Yes, there will likely be some adverse financial impact (albeit a small one) if employers are forced to verify the status of employees and pay fair wages. Yes, the proposed laws will harm Hispanics more than any other groups since they form 80% of the illegal immigrant population. However, none of these factors changes the fundamental core of the issue - that illegal immigrants and the companies that employee them must be punished for violating our immigration policies. Since the federal government has proven so inept at dealing with this issue, the State of Florida can and must act on its own by passing the proposed illegal immigration bills now before the House.
Thank you for your time and attention.