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Miami-Dade legislators begin discussion on 2012 immigration focus

Miami-Dade’s legislative delegation yesterday discussed immigration reform — another signal that the controversial issue will be important in Florida’s 2012 legislative session.#

The Miami Herald reports today: #

The Miami-Dade delegation met for the second time this month on Wednesday — not [to] take positions on controversial issues, but to listen to nonprofits asking for lawmakers’ help in Tallahassee. #

Yet the first group to speak asked about immigration, perhaps the most contentious issue in this year’s session. And that prompted Democratic state Rep. Luis Garcia to “demand” that his colleagues vote to stand against any anti-immigrant proposals that could crop up in session. Gov. Rick Scott has said the issue is still one of his legislative priorities. #

Scott, who agrees that state law enforcement must be allowed to ask suspects about their immigration status, signed an executive order requiring that all state agencies — and all companies that enter into contracts with state agencies — use E-Verify to check the employment elligibility of their workers. #

The Herald adds: #

State Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Republican and the delegation’s chairman, said legislators would meet in Miami-Dade later this year to vote on their priorities. He pointed out that most, if not all, of Miami-Dade lawmakers had either taken a public position or voted against immigration proposals in the past — but warned that the issue would likely not, in his view, qualify as a delegation priority. #

In its spring session, the Florida Legislature failed to pass immigration enforcement bills that would have allowed local law enforcement among other things to to ask suspects about their immigration status. #

Two failed immigration enforcement bills — state Rep. William Snyder’s H.B. 7089 and Sen. Anitere Flores’ S.B. 2040 — included provisions that would make programs such as Secure Communities a permanent part of law enforcement in Florida. #

Problems with Secure Communities, a federal immigration enforcement program, has already prompted elected officials from other states to opt out of the program. The program counts the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and all of Florida’s counties(.pdf) as participants. #

Secure Communities allows local law enforcement agencies to check the fingerprints of people they detain and match them up with federal immigration and criminal databases, with the stated goal of deporting criminals. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, announced last week that the federal government will no longer rely on agreements with states to operate the controversial program. #

A report released in March indicated that according to ICE data, five Florida jurisdictions where Secure Communities is being implemented are among the top 20 jurisdictions with the highest numbers of deportations of non-criminals. In Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties, 66 percent of Secure Communities deportations were of non-criminals. #

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