News From the Frontlines of Florida Immigration

In August 2010, Florida unveiled proposed new immigration laws which are based loosely on the Arizona immigration laws. The Florida legislation would require police to verify the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants stopped during a routine check in Florida. The law would also necessitate that businesses in Florida verify the status of new employees through a national registry. Under the new law, anyone who is not a citizen is required to carry immigration documents at all times or face misdemeanor charges.

The move has come after immigration to Florida has reached new heights and concerns about illegal Florida immigration are also heightened. In the US, Florida is the seventh-fastest state for population growth, and much of that growth is though immigration. Up to one third of the some three million new residents which have settled in Florida over the past decades are immigrants. While immigration to Florida is bringing in more taxpayers, it also placing a strain on traffic, schools, housing, and development.

As well, many Floridians are worried about illegal immigration. Florida’s location on the ocean makes it a target for illegal immigrants who arrive by boat from nearby nations. Some residents of the state claim that US immigration laws and US immigration authorities have not been able to stem the tide of illegal immigration to the state, which is one reason why the proposed new Florida immigration law has received some support.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are over 700,000 illegal immigrants in Florida. In fact, Florida had the third-highest rate of illegal immigration in 2008 (only Texas and California saw more illegal immigrants enter their borders in 2008). In many cases, workers arrive in Florida in order to work as crop pickers. Advocates for immigrants note that the workers do low-wage seasonal work that no legal immigrants or citizens want to do. However, the illegal immigration is still a problem in Florida. In Key West, boats of illegal immigrants from Cuba have been arriving since the 1990s. In the past, Florida has sued the federal government, alleging that federal US immigration laws and polices did not do enough to keep illegal immigrants out of the state. Although Florida did not win these legal battles, they were granted federal funds to help deal with the illegal immigration issue. Despite this, Florida tax revenues are still needed each year to pay for hospital visits, schooling, and other services provided to illegal immigrants.

Currently, Florida is divided when it comes to Florida immigration policy. According to polls, two out of three Florida residents prefer tougher immigration laws of the style seen in Arizona.