TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The most stringent immigration legislation in Florida made its first committee appearance Wednesday afternoon, resulting in a ferocious debate that sent the committee into overtime.
Introduced by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill), SB 1718 would require hospital data on illegal immigrants, implement a minimum fine of $5,000 per illegal immigrant hired by a business and make the transporting of an illegal immigrant a third-degree felony.
CRISIS ON THE BORDER
“We want to have legal immigration fixed and we want to stop illegal immigration. The biggest thing is a federal legal immigration system that’s broken,” Ingoglia stated, referring to illegal immigration at a three times higher rate under President Biden than President Trump.
Sen. Ingoglia was backed by the Chair of the Rules Committee, Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne).
“We have a process in this country, and it’s people that are here illegally that cause harm to the people in our state,” Sen. Mayfield asserted. “The immigration system is broken. But that doesn’t mean that people can come illegally across the borders… and we are incentivizing the wrong people to come.”
“YOU ARE PREDATORS, NOT LEGISLATORS”
Vehement opposition came in the form of dozens of citizens and the five Democratic senators on the Rules Committee.
“Florida is not only where woke goes to die but where liberty goes to die as well,” said a spokeswoman for the group Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida and added: “You are predators, not legislators.”
Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami) also voiced his dissent: “This is a human rights nightmare. I can truly see how individuals might be fearful of taking a grandmother or a mother to the doctor.” Jones cited fears that the bill’s provision for tallying illegal immigrants in hospitals would prevent them from getting cared for at all.
“This is a cruel bill,” he concluded.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO BLAME?
Ingoglia stated that the true problem was not Florida’s immigration legislation – but the federal government’s open border policy.
“I agree with you, Senator Jones: it is a nightmare, and it is a human rights issue. But I would argue that the human rights issue is happening on our border,” Ingoglia stated. “I have heard it said that we are demonizing migrants; that is not the case. We are demonizing illegal immigrants.”
“The federal government will only act when they have to, and when an external force pushes back. Florida is that external force,” Ingoglia said.
SB 1718 has a companion bill in the House, HB 1617, increasing the odds of it becoming law. After its rocky passing in the Rules Committee, it will appear next in the Committee on Fiscal Policy.