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Zapata and Rivera: immigration bills take "anti-Hispanic undertone"

Representatives David Rivera and Juan Zapata, both Miami Republicans, may not sit on the House State Affairs Committee, but Tuesday afternoon both legislators waded through three hours of testimony during the committee's workshop on a series of proposed illegal immigration bills. Both were looking to weigh in on what they described as the "anti-Hispanic undertone" over taking the immigration debate.

" This immigration debate has taken an anti-Hispanic undertone that needs to end," Zapata said.

Zapata, the House's first Columbian-American legislator, and chairman of the Miami-Dade delegation, told the committee about his father having the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen after coming to the country on a student visa to attend Emory University in the 1950s.

"I've been an immigration advocate from the moment my dad told me this is the greatest country on earth," Zapata said. "I get emotional about this. I'm an American by choice, while many of you were born American. You're lucky that you are part of a country that people are dying to come in, not dying to get out."

Rivera, the son of Cuban exiles, told the group that undocumented workers pay into the state's tax system by way of sales tax, and property taxes through rent.

"They're paying for schools and hospitals,"  Rivera said . "They're also doing the jobs that not many other people are willing to do. They are being nannies...they are the ones picking vegetables...the ones cleaning toilets and bedrooms in hotels."

The six bills being proposed include a hodge -podge of legislation from checking the immigration status of someone pulled over for a DUI check to banning public funding of day laborer worker centers.

Responding to concerns from the Miami-Dade legislators Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is sponsoring one of the immigration bills said ; "I speak Spanish. I have a masters degree in Latin American history. I'm not anti-Hispanic. I'm anti-illegals."