In an emotional debate during which senators choked up and recalled the struggles of their immigrant forebears, the Florida Senate on Tuesday unexpectedly defeated one of Gov. Rick Scott’s pledges to crack down on illegal immigration.
The 23-16 vote to defeat an amendment to institute E-Verify, the federal government’s system to check a worker’s immigration status, could ultimately doom any immigration crackdown.
The annual legislative session will end Friday, and House members say they won’t take a watered-down immigration bill without a stronger E-Verify component.
“The process does not really allow for a piece of legislation like this to come in the waning hours,” said Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, a mild-mannered retired Miami-Dade cop and the bill’s House sponsor. He called the possibility of the House’s taking up the Senate’s bill “improbable.”
The Senate might wait for the House to take up the measure. The House might wait for the Senate. So the bill itself could be dead because the E-Verify amendment was killed.
Senate President Haridopolos was on the losing side of a vote that he said was “not really” surprising, though he thought it would be closer.
“I’ve proven on many different times I’m not a dictator,” he said, noting members vote their will. To grassroots Republicans, he said he would point out that his chamber is fiscally conservative, having cut spending and taxes.
Still, Haridopolos put his members on the board for an emotional vote -- one that some fear could cost them. Technically, it could have been done as a voice vote and Haridopolos would have made the call as to whether it passed or note (though a board vote could've been forced if five members requested it).
Will this have an effect on Haridopolos U.S. Senate bid? Polls show Republicans wildly favor immigration crackdowns. Hispanics, the fastest growing demographic, don't. But, by and large, the only Republican Hispanics are Cubans, and they have special immigration status. So this bill doesn't affect them as much as, say, people from Central America.
And it affects white-bread farmers as well. Case in point: Sen. J.D. Alexander, the Senate budget chief who wound up carrying the bill after it was yanked from Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami. Alexander persuasively argued against e-Verify and he probably swayed some votes. How many? Who knows. Could Haridopolos have handled this differently?
Haridopolos says there's always "Monday morning quarterbacking." Indeed. Game's on.