As he promised last summer, State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has filed an Arizona-style immigration bill that would give Florida law enforcement the authority to ask suspected illegal immigrants about their status.
“I just want to make sure we handle this problem with a very even hand," Bennett told the Bradenton Herald's Beth Burger. "I know there’s a lot of people that say, 'Throw them all out.' ... I have a lot questions myself. The only way I can control this and get discussions going is to have a bill."
Senate Bill 136, filed last week, "is intended to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens in this state and the economic activity by persons unlawfully present in this state," the proposed legislation reads.
“If the sheriff arrests somebody and they are here illegally," said Bennett, "we should be able to call (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and get them out of our lives."
The measure, as currently drafted, explicitly prohibits the use of racial or other type of profiling to determine whom is ask to prove that they are legally in the United States. Officers would have to have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is in the country illegally before asking about their status.
"A law enforcement officer of this state or a political subdivision of this state may not consider race, color, or national origin when implementing the requirements of this subsection, except to the extent permitted by the United States constitution or the state constitution," the proposal reads.
The bill is based on a new Arizona law requiring police investigating another incident or crime to ask people about their immigration status if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” they’re in the country illegally.
Bennett's measure would require local law enforcement to contact federal immigration officials of people who cannot prove they are in the country legally. Also, anyone found to not be carrying proof of their immigration status could be fined up to $100 and sentenced to up to 20 days in jail.
To read Senate Bill 136, go here.