Bipartisan Florida coalition pushes for state and federal immigration reform

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 4:50 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPS NEWS/WCJB) - A coalition of business groups, activists and former and current elected Florida officials are pushing state and federal lawmakers to find common ground on immigration reform.

They hope some change may even come out of the state legislative session that begins next week.

Bipartisan solutions were the focus of the virtual summit on immigration.

“More than 75 percent of Americans approve of immigration reform,” said Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund Chairman Mike Fernandez.

Florida’s Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried is pushing for a more compassionate way of dealing with those who arrive in the country.

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“What we need are common sense immigration solutions. What we don’t need are detention centers holding immigrant children in Homestead or anywhere else,” said Fried.

One in five Floridians weren’t born in the United States, and immigrants make up more than a fourth of the state’s workforce.

Former Republican Governor Jeb Bush believes there’s common ground to be found in helping those who are already here.

“That if you came here many years ago and you are American in every way and you’re making a contribution to our great country, that you ought to be able to get citizenship and do that in a very rapid way,” said Bush.

Immigration policy is largely in the hands of the federal government, but some reforms have been made at the state level in the past.

Former Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford went to battle with his own party and successfully pushed for in-state tuition rates for any resident, regardless of their immigration status.

“Facing your own party and convincing them to challenge their own fears is the hardest part of this process, but it can be done,” said Weatherford.

Despite the hopes of the bipartisan coalition, only three bills dealing with immigration have been filed for the 2021 session.

Of the bills filed, one would revoke in-state tuition rates for non-US citizens.

Another would tighten requirements for businesses to check the immigration status of potential new hires.

The third would make all Floridian students eligible for state financial aid, regardless of their immigration status.

None have yet been scheduled for a hearing.

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