Florida immigration law focused on employers hasn't been enforced

The Miami HeraldJanuary 25, 2011 

Illegal immigration either costs or saves Floridians billions of dollars. It's inspired by racism. Or it's a fight to stop slave-labor wages.

The polarizing views and stats clashed Monday at the Florida Senate's second fact-finding committee meeting over immigration. But one number wasn't disputed. Zero.

That's the number of employers who have been charged with breaking an 11-year-old Florida law that prohibits anyone from knowingly hiring a person "who is not duly authorized to work by the immigration laws or the Attorney General of the United States.''

``From what I can find, from our statistics, the statute has never been enforced,'' said Michael Ramage, general counsel for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Ramage said he checked law-enforcement and court-clerk databases and found 16 separate cases that initially looked like violations of the statute, but he said police improperly leveled the charge. Ramage said there's a chance that some employers in some counties could have been hit with a civil -- as opposed to criminal -- charge. But no records of that exist.

Why hasn't the statute been used?

``There's probably little time and little resources for law enforcement to proactively go and scope out employers and see if they're in violation of this law,'' Ramage speculated.

Now that Republican lawmakers are trying to live up to the campaign-season's promise to pass a new immigration reform, the fate of the old law is a clear indicator that local law enforcement officials seldom wish to get involved in immigration cases, which are largely federal matters.

But the much-ballyhooed law in Arizona changed the debate. That law -- blocked for now by a federal court -- contained the controversial provision that required police to ask suspects about their immigration status.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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