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Immigration debate comes back to haunt Mel Martinez

Images The debate over Arizona's strict new immigration law is giving Mel Martinez -- the Republican senator from Florida who took early retirement last year -- an uncomfortable sense of deja vu.

Martinez, the first Cuban American elected to the U.S. Senate, was at the center of the firestorm over immigration reform in 2006. Activists opposed to allowing illegal immigrants to earn citizenship mailed build-up-the-border bricks to the senator's office. The legislation collapsed as some unions balked, conservative Republicans cried against "amnesty,'' and anti-immigrant fervor laced talk radio.

Here we go again.

Taking matters into its own hands, Arizona has passed a polarizing law making it a crime not to carry a green card and empowering local police to enforce immigration law.

"I kind of cringe to see it all start again, to hear the same angry voices,'' said Martinez, now a lawyer/lobbyist at DLA Piper in Orlando. "What frustrates me so much is people equating illegal immigrants with criminals. You hear people talking about an invasion of our country.''

Full column here.