ACLU Urges Legislature not to Expand the Special Session to Consider Arizona-style Immigration Crackdown

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
July 16, 2010 12:00 am

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ACLU of Florida Supports Obama Administration’s Challenge to Law; Criticizes Attorney General McCollum’s Intervention in Arizona Case

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MIAMI – The ACLU of Florida today urged legislative leaders not to expand next week’s special session. Some Florida legislators are pushing legislation to bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida, and the legislation could be taken up during next week’s special session that was called to address off-shore oil drilling. A PDF of the ACLU’s letter to Speaker Cretul and Senate President Atwater can be downloaded here:

The ACLU of Florida also sent an action alert to 18,000 of its members and supporters asking them to tell legislative leadership not to expand the session to include such anti-civil liberties measures as an Arizona-style immigration law. You can view that alert here:

“The brand of legislation introduced in Florida targets people who fail to carry their papers or who look like they don’t belong. Sadly, rather than making our communities safer, these proposals, if enacted into law, would divert scarce resources away from law enforcement’s primary responsibility of public safety, while encouraging racial profiling in blatant disregard of America’s most fundamental values of fairness and equality,” said Courtenay Strickland, ACLU of Florida Public Policy Director. “If our state legislators want to improve our immigration system, they should work with their Congressional counterparts to achieve fair and just solutions at the federal level rather than play on people’s fears.”

The ACLU also denounced Attorney General McCollum’s decision to submit a brief in U.S. District Court in Arizona Wednesday in opposition to the Obama administration’s lawsuit and supporting SB1070, the discriminatory “show me your papers” racial profiling law. Other attorneys general on the brief include those from Michigan, Alabama, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

“You would think that those who declare themselves opponents of big and oppressive government would oppose a state law that gives police such unprecedented authority. We are deeply disappointed not only that Attorney General McCollum has filed a brief supporting Arizona’s extreme ‘show me your papers’ law, but that some of our state legislators would consider going outside the purpose of the special session to enact a law in Florida that would legitimize racial profiling,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida Executive Director. “That the Attorney general and state legislators would use the public’s concern about our broken immigration system for some perceived political advantage is a disgrace.”

“Directing the police to enforce a law that can only be enforced by racial and ethnic stereotyping and profiling does nothing to protect the integrity of the nation’s borders, does nothing to find a way for the approximately 11 million undocumented people in this country to come out from the shadows, or in any other way fix our broken immigration system,” he added.

The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of other leading civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona “show me your papers” racial profiling law on May 17. The lawsuit charges that the law invites the racial profiling of people of color, and interferes with the federal government’s responsibility to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. The federal government’s lawsuit against the Arizona law was filed on July 6.

Some Florida legislators, however, appear determined to ignore the clear signal from the Obama administration that interference with the federal government’s Constitutional responsibility to enforce immigration laws will not be tolerated. If some Florida legislators have it their way, you could soon hear this phrase from local and state law enforcement officials: “May I see your proof of citizenship please?” Even though Governor Crist called the special session to deal specifically with oil drilling in Florida’s waters, some legislators have taken it upon themselves to push for Arizona-style immigration enforcement in Florida, without occasion for public input, and without expert review.

“Florida is an extraordinarily diverse state, and many people would be unjustly ensnared by this law – solely on the basis of their racial and ethnic identity. We will fight hard to make sure that Florida does not follow Arizona’s shameful lead,” Simon concluded.

For more information on the ACLU of Florida’s work to prevent Arizona-style immigration laws in Florida, visit here:

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