Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in this March 14th, 2011 Legislative Weekly. FAIR tracks pending immigration laws in the United States which can impact homeland security in positive or negative ways and are a valued resource.

  • Maryland Senate Gives Tuition Breaks to Illegal Aliens
  • Business Lobby Kills Arizona Immigration Bills
  • Florida Legislature Kicks Off Immigration Debate


Maryland Senate Gives Tuition Breaks to Illegal Aliens

Early last week, the Maryland state Senate passed a measure to provide in-state tuition to illegal aliens.  (SB 167; Washington Post, Mar. 15, 2011)   The bill, which was approved by a vote of 27-20, allows illegal aliens to attend Maryland colleges at the reduced in-state tuition rate, which averages $10,000 less than tuition for non-residents, thus giving illegal aliens a significant financial benefit over U.S. citizens who reside in neighboring states.

The bill also allows illegal aliens who have graduated from Maryland high schools to quality for tuition breaks at community colleges.  (SB 167)  After attaining an associate’s degree, the alien may then proceed to a four-year institution at the in-state tuition rate.   (Id.)   “It’s going to be so much easier for me,” a Prince George County high school student from Guatemala said on Monday night after the senate’s vote.  (Washington Post, Mar. 15, 2011)  The bill is currently in committee in the Maryland House of Representatives.  (HB 470)

If the bill becomes law, Maryland would join ten other states who currently allow in-state tuition for illegal aliens.  (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 28, 2011)  Several months ago, the California Supreme Court upheld its own in-state tuition law against a lawsuit claiming the statute violated federal law.  (Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, 50 Cal. 4th 1277)  According to  8 U.S.C. § 1623, “[a]n alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State … for any post-secondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible … without regard to [residence].”  The California Supreme Court determined that the tuition break was in fact not based on residency, and thus was not preempted by federal law.  (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 22, 2010)  Plaintiffs in California hope to take this case to the Supreme Court.

Business Lobby Kills Arizona Immigration Bills

Under heavy lobbying from business interests, the Arizona state senate defeated five bills last week that would have created additional deterrence to illegal aliens.  (New York Times, Mar. 17, 2011) Republican state senators were split over the bills, which included two bills designed to eventually force the United States Supreme Court to restore proper applications of the birthright citizenship provisions in the 14th Amendment.  (Id.; SB 1308; SB 1309; See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2011)  Three additional bills would have required hospitals to notify authorities of aliens suspected of being in the country illegally; restricted illegal aliens from attending state universities and collecting federal benefits; and required public schools to record how many children of illegal aliens attend classes.

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and other business executives lobbied hard against the measures.  (Abc15, Mar. 18, 2011)  Along with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, executive officers of over 60 businesses wrote to the state representatives urging the to stop the legislation, saying it would hurt the economy.  (Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Mar. 15, 2011)  Todd Sanders, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, said the state’s borders need to be better protected, but argued that Arizona legislators need to push President Obama and federal legislators to “implement meaningful changes to our antiquated immigration system.”  (Id.)  Republican state Senator John McComish agreed, saying.  “It’s time for us to take a time out.  It’s something the people don’t want us focusing on.” (Id.)

After the votes, Arizona state Senator and sponsor of the immigration legislation Ron Gould stated that there were some legislators who were “bought and paid for by the Chamber of Commerce.”  (Abc15, Mar. 18, 2011)  The bills are not expected to be brought up again during this year’s legislative session, but could be placed on the ballot for a vote.  (Politico, Mar. 18, 2011)

Florida Legislature Kicks Off Immigration Debate

Florida lawmakers have filed several immigration enforcement bills since the beginning of the state’s 60-day legislative session that began on March 8.  Two of the bills stirring the most debate are SPB 7066 in the Senate and HB 7089 in the House.

SPB 7066, introduced by Florida State Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) just one day into the session, has already been stripped of its mandatory E-Verify requirement.  As introduced, Sen. Flores’ bill, SPB 7066, would have required all employers in Florida to verify the employment eligibility status of new hires using the E-Verify program beginning January 1, 2012. (See SPB 7066 as introduced § 3, Mar. 9, 2011)  However, Sen. Flores, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, struck that provision when her bill reached the Committee. As watered down, SPB 7066 now exempts employers from using E-Verify if the new hire presents one of the following identifying documents as part of the Form I-9 process:

1) A U.S. passport or passport card;

2) A driver’s license from any state or outlying possession of the U.S. containing a photograph;

3) A foreign passport containing a visa evidencing work authorization and accompanying Form I-94; or

4) A secure national identification card or similar document.

(See SPB 7066 as amended § 3(2), Mar. 14, 2011) The amended bill also revises the title of the legislation from “Unauthorized Aliens” to “Unauthorized Immigrants,” but maintains key provisions that would require the State to participate in 287(g) and Secure Communities, and require police to make a reasonable effort to determine the immigration status of those arrested and confined in a jail, prison, or other criminal detention facility.  (Id. at §§ 1, 4(2), §4(3)(b), (§4(3)(a))

Florida Senate President, Mike Haridopolos (R), told reporters during a weekly press briefing that he wanted mandatory E-Verify back in the bill. (Orlando Sentinel, Mar. 16, 2011) “That’s where I believe the consensus or the strength of the Senate is on E-Verify,” he said.  (Id.) On the other hand, the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), an organization that refers to itself as “The Voice of Florida Business,” supports the amendment.  A statement on its website read:  “As amended, SB 7066 is certainly a more reasonable approach to the immigration issue and AIF looks forward to working with Chair Flores and staff on finding a common-sense solution, ‘Florida-based’ solution to the issue of immigration in our state.” (AIF Daily Legislative Brief, Mar. 14, 2011) 

The other key piece of enforcement legislation making its way through the Florida legislature is HB 7089, introduced by state Rep. William Snyder (R-Stuart).  The bill, titled the “Florida Immigration Enforcement Act,” contains several critical enforcement-first provisions, such as requiring all private employers to use E-Verify, and mirrors federal law by stating that local governments  may not be prohibited or restricted from exchanging immigration information with federal authorities.  (HB 7089 at §§4, 5) However, the provision garnering the most attention is Section 1(2)(a), which provides that if law enforcement officials have reasonable suspicion an individual is unlawfully present in the U.S., they must attempt to determine the immigration status of those they arrest.

The open-borders lobby has already launched protests against HB7089 at the state Capitol.  The protest, organized by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and backed by the AFL-CIO, reportedly had over 300 protestors who identified themselves as “immigrants” shouting “Somos Florida” (“We are Florida”)! (Sunshine News, Mar. 18, 2011) “We’re here to fight!” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) in support of the protest. (Id.)  “If I can pick your oranges and strawberries, why is it I cannot be included in the population of this great state?” she questioned. (Id.)

Florida Governor Rick Scott has already voiced his support for immigration enforcement measures.  For example, Gov. Scott stated during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign that he supported Arizona-style legislation in Florida as well as making E-Verify mandatory for all employers.  (See FAIR’s 2010 Election Report) Gov. Scott has already made good on some of these pledges by issuing an executive order making E-Verify mandatory for all state agencies under his control.  (Executive Order 11-02, Jan. 4, 2011; See also FAIR’s Legislative Update, Jan. 10, 2011) However, it remains to be seen whether Governor Scott would sign one or both of these measures if passed by the Florida Legislature