Advocates Denounce State Immigration Reform Bills

MIAMI (CBS4) – They say you should never bring up religion and politics among friends, but in Coral Gables Thursday you heard both.

Pastor Audrey Warren from Branches United Methodist Church in Florida City led a rally combining immigration reform with the story of Easter. As she explained it to us: the plight of immigrants in South Florida is similar to that of Jesus.

“Jesus was an immigrant. He had to leave and go to Egypt because of political persecution. And many people here that is the reason they have to leave their country.” Warren said.

Pastor Warren broadcast her message outside Florida Representative Carlos Lopez Cantera’s office. She was hoping to inspire the legislature to put the brakes on significant immigration reform bills making their way through Tallahassee.

House bill 7089 would authorize law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants, require every employer to use a federal database to verify citizenship.

Employers caught hiring illegal aliens would face fines.

The Senate version is watered down. SB2040 requires employers to use that same federal database but there are no penalties. Only those convicted of serious crimes could have their status checked and enforcement would be up to each county.

Cheryl Little of Florida Immigrant Advocacy Coalition called a press conference Thursday to express concern.

“We are only hoping that people in Tallahassee will come to their senses. Even if you don’t like immigrants the smart thing to do is to shut these bills down before they see the light of day.”

Immigration advocates are now getting nervous either bill could come to a vote any day. The vote could happen like it did in committee meetings earlier this month. The debate, if you could call it that, lasted all of three minutes before passing.

Former County Commissioner Jimmy Morales told us the law “sends the wrong message to the people who want to come to our community to play, contribute to our economy, be part of our culture to live. It would devastate us.”

With three weeks left in the legislature you can expect to see more protest like this one. But ultimately it will come down to House majority Carlos Lopez-Cantera to decide whether this bill gets a vote on the House floor.

We will have to wait and see what happens.

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