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Florida Senate Puts Politics Before Reason On Immigration

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Republican Governors and Attorneys Generals — including Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi — recently filed a lawsuit to block President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The controversial move has prohibited 253,000 Florida immigrants from applying to the DACA+ and DAPA programs, and has prevented the state of Florida from taking advantage of the $607.9 million in new tax revenue that would be generated by these immigrants were the programs be set in motion.

Yesterday, State Senator Darren Soto (D – District 14) introduced an amendment to prevent Pam Bondi from using taxpayer dollars to fund the State’s challenge to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The Department of Legal Affairs may not use funds in Specific Appropriations 1313 through 1367 for the purpose of stopping, delaying, or otherwise inhibiting the implementation of any aspects or phases of the executive policy referred to as “deferred action” as set forth in the memorandum from Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson, “Exercising Prosecutorial  Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children and with Respect to Certain Individuals Who Are the Parents of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents,” dated November 20, 2014.

While at first the amendment appeared to have passed by a razor-thin margin, 16 Yes – 15 No, a motion to reconsider was made by Senator Jack Latvala (R – District 20) and the amendment was ultimately defeated by the Senate’s Republican majority.

It is important to note that Mr. Latvala was the champion of Florida’s in-state tuition bill for undocumented students during last year’s legislative session, a significant show of bipartisanship for a state that had blocked similar proposals since 2001. The Tampa Tribune reported on Latvala’s on the amendment:

“I lost sight of the fact that it is longtime Senate custom…for those of us involved in the leadership on the budget, as chairman of the subcommittees, support our chairman and our fellow subcommittee chairmen,” said Latvala, who chairs the subcommittee that writes the Senate’s transportation budget.

Francesca Menes, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, released the following statement regarding today’s vote:

Attorney General Pam Bondi is not only being irresponsible in the use of our resources in a lawsuit that could bring many benefits to our state, but she is also ignoring the voices of over 1,000 Floridians who have been asking her for months to withdraw Florida’s name from this lawsuit through an online petition.

“We fully support Senator Soto’s amendment. Not only because someone had to call her out on her record for misusing our state’s resources against Florida’s diverse and vulnerable communities, but because of the positive impact this Executive Action would have in our state.

Instead of using our resources to shoot ourselves in the foot and continue paying for costly and cruel detentions and deportations that separate families, we want to remind AG Bondi that Florida could increase its tax revenues by $102 million over 5 years if DAPA and DACA are implemented.”

New Jersey and Texas find themselves in  similar positions. Governors of both states have signed into law measures that would provide undocumented students with in-state tuition, but both Governors are also joined onto the federal lawsuit that challenges DACA+ and DAPA. Governor Abbott was the original plaintiff, while Governor Christe recently joined the legal effort. Currently, Texas is considering repealing in-state tuition for undocumented students.