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McCollum and Republicans unveil Arizona-style immigration law

Attorney General Bill McCollum unveiled a proposed bill Wednesday that would require police officers to verify a suspect's immigration status during all lawful stops, detentions and arrests when reasonable suspicion exists.

"Arizona is going to want this law," said McCollum. "We're better, we’re stronger, we’re tougher and we’re fairer."

The law differs from the Arizona law in that it would allow judges to consider immigration status when setting bail. Illegal immigrants would also face stiffer criminal sentences than legal residents who committed the same crime.  Unlike the Arizona law, citizens would not be able to sue law enforcement agencies for not enforcing the law. Instead, that watchdog role would fall to the state attorney general.

Soliciting employment as an illegal immigrant would also become a crime and Florida businesses would have to to use the federal E-Verify program to confirm their employees' immigration status

Key parts of Arizona's controversial law were blocked by a federal judge in July. Bill sponsor Rep. William Snyder, R- Stuart, said he did not agree with that ruling.

"Some of the things that judge ruled on we will not be fixing in our draft language,” Snyder said.

Racial profiling would be prohibited under Florida's proposed law, said McCollum. Reasonable suspicion to inquire about immigration status might include an altered driver's license or an admission of illegal residency in the country, he said.

“It's not how you look, it's not what you say,” he said.

Detained illegal immigrants will be turned over to federal immigration officers for deportation, McCollum said.

Snyder said the law is necessary to protect illegal immigrants and to curb drug activity.

"This is the beginning of what I think will be a fairly long and sometimes emotional discussion," he said.