Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Anti-Immigrant Bills Pile Up at Florida Capitol

TALLAHASSEE, FL - The national wave of anti-immigrant sentiment seems to have swept over the Florida Capitol, with a number of measures filed in recent weeks that could potentially threaten immigrant families in the state.

The bills would toughen deportation proceedings, increase penalties for undocumented immigrants and cut temporary cash assistance programs.

Francesca Menes, policy director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, says she feels state lawmakers are capitalizing on the current national climate, fueled by openly anti-immigrant presidential candidate Donald Trump and embraced by many Republican lawmakers nationwide.

"Do you not understand that this country was built on the back of immigrants, and that we contribute to our economies at our federal, state and local levels?" she points out.

While immigrants' advocates criticize the bills as being divisive and potentially fueling racism and hate, Republican state lawmakers say the federal government isn't doing enough to halt illegal immigration.

Menes says she had high hopes the tide had turned on this issue, and that comprehensive immigration reform would become a reality under President Barack Obama. She says much of that hope has eroded in the current climate.

"That's been held up in the courts, it's probably going to be held up in the courts for another year," she laments. "So, by the time this president leaves office, there will have been nothing that has moved around immigration reform but a bunch of the negative."

Last week, Rep. Larry Metz, a Republican in Lake County, introduced House Bill (HB) 675 in the Florida House to punish so-called sanctuary cities that don't cooperate when federal officials attempt to deport illegal immigrants, with fines of up to $5,000 per day.

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