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Florida Senate budget hearing leads to powerful prayers on immigration reform

After a four-hour meeting of the Senate Budget panel on Monday, chairman J.D. Alexander took the extraordinary step of allowing hundreds of immigrants and activists into the meeting room to speak against an immigration reform measure awaiting approval by the committee. #

They filed into the room and knelt in front of their seats. What followed was perhaps the most emotional (and under-reported) moment of this legislative session. Folks who have been around the Capitol for years say they’ve never seen anything like it. #

Alexander said he was torn: On one hand, the borders should be secure and laws should be enforced. On the other, “but for the grace of God,” he could be in the same position as many of the people who came to speak that day, whom he said were simply seeking a better life for their families. #

The session ended with the group, led by children, praying that God would give their leaders the wisdom not to pass this bill. #

Alexander told them he couldn’t give them a firm commitment that day, but assured them they are being heard. He said on Tuesday that he didn’t “care a lot” whether the bill cleared his committee — not that he didn’t care about the issue, but that he isn’t sure what the answer is. Both he and the activists seemed to agree that the root cause of the political dilemma faced by the legislature is the failure of the federal government to enact comprehensive reform and create, in Alexander’s words, “some kind of a transitional status” for unauthorized immigrants. #

Florida immigration discussion, prayer from Travis Pillow on Vimeo.

Immigrants and their advocates — many of them undocumented — have been flooding the Capitol since the session began to oppose the immigration bills moving through the legislature. A tea party activist is reportedly castigating lawmakers for not reporting these people to federal immigration authorities. #

The Senate has kept the issue on hold since before the Easter holiday, and is reportedly waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to take a position, which is expected to happen some time this week. #

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