By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
TAMPA— It seems that after 17 months in office, Gov. Rick Scott is ready to change his mind as to what constitutes immigration reform.
Surrounded by reporters after addressing the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Orlando on June 22, Scott expressed a much more pragmatic approach to dealing with immigration than was heard in his initial election campaign.
“Number one, the federal government needs to have a national, secure borders. Two, have an immigration policy that everybody understands – Americans and people who come to our country. Three, we need to make sure we have a work-visa program that doesn’t put Florida businesses at a disadvantage,” said Scott.
In appealing to the conservatives of the tea party firebrand in 2010, he promised E-Verify programs statewide to assure that suspected undocumented immigrants weren’t getting jobs in the Sunshine State.
“We will require all Florida employers to use the free E-verify system to ensure that their workers are legal,” Scott pitched on his campaign website before the 2010 gubernatorial election.
On his first day as governor, Scott at least somewhat delivered on the promise, signing an executive order requiring E-Verify for all employees and agencies who do business with the state of Florida, demonstrating eagerness in delivering some form of immigration reform to his base of supporters.
But in Orlando, Scott played down the rhetoric of the earlier part of his term that brought his party to control the state Legislature and Governor’s Mansion.
“We shouldn’t be putting our Florida businesses or American businesses at an economic disadvantage because we don’t have a well-defined work-visa plan that makes sense,” Scott told reporters last Friday, visibly cautious as to how his softened stance would be perceived.
Scott made his comments days before the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision on the Arizona immigration law, upholding the provision requiring identification for suspected undocumented immigrants but curbing local police powers otherwise.
Scott told reporters that a similar crackdown wouldn’t be beneficial to Florida’s businesses, and that the responsibility remains with the federal government to enforce the immigration laws and procedures “already on the books.”
Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, a local nonprofit group opposed to illegal immigration, estimates that more than 1 million Florida residents are living and working in the state without proper papers.
At least 2 million workers in the state of Florida are foreign-born legal immigrants, according to the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics.
Speaking to Florida Watchdog, Dave Caulkett, vice president of FLIMEN, who has memorized both sets of numbers, is said he is upset by the recent capitulations on immigration by his public officials.
He noted that President Barack Obama‘s recent move to halt deportations, coupled with Scott’s soften stance, should bring caution to the residents of Florida.
“Neither of the two parties are doing what is right to defend us. It’s simple: if you get more people in the country, you’ve got less jobs,” said Caulkett, adding that every person who wishes to move to the U.S. can undergo the formal process.
The Republican Party of Florida could not be reached for comments, but recent blog posts on the party’s official website demonstrate that dissent may be brewing in the state GOP.
On June 15 the state party vehemently criticized Obama’s softening on deportations for undocumented minors, calling the move a “pander to Hispanics” that represented nothing but “nonsense” and “goodies” for those who broke the law.
Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling on the Arizona immigration law on June 25, the same website blasted the “affront to federalism and common sense,” adding that it now hinder the ability of the state to deal with the “influx of illegal aliens.”
Both views would seem to be in contradiction to Scott’s more nuanced, pragmatic stance adopted just recently, perhaps faced with the prospect of alienating almost 3 million of Florida 8 million civilian workforce, who are foreign-born immigrants either with documents or without them.