Florida’s Copycat Bill

Published On: Donate

State Senator Mike Bennet filed an immigration bill recently that seeks to transform Florida’s immigration enforcement guidelines so that local police can inquire into the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an undocumented alien.

WTSP of Tampa reported on the story yesterday and interviewed Edward R. Benoway, Bishop of the ELCA’s Florida-Bahamas Synod. Read the story here or watch the newscast here.

Bishop Benoway had a lot more to say than what made it into the newscast so we asked him to share some more of his thoughts on this bill:

I do not think that such a bill would be helpful, but rather harmful to relationships in our state and communities. I feel that the enactment and enforcement of immigration laws should rest with our federal government. Clearly, as a nation, we need comprehensive reform of our laws relating to immigration.

In Florida, with its very high Latino immigrant population from many different nations, as well as our Latino natural born citizens, such a law could cause unnecessary fear of being stopped, questioned and even detained by law enforcement officers because of suspicions that might arise regarding their immigration status.

Our concern as a church is that we work to find ways to keep families together and find pathways for those who are undocumented to become properly documented. We support such legislation as the DREAM Act, which provides young people, many of whom have lived nearly their entire lives in this country, the opportunity to earn residency if they complete two years of higher education or two years in the military. That is helpful legislation and moves us in the right direction in our relationships with immigrants.

Some of the fear that comes with such laws as the Arizona law is that to even relate to someone we might know or perceived to be undocumented could in and of itself become illegal or become a violation of the law. In the church, we are called to reach out and welcome the stranger and immigrant among us. We do not want to push them further away or isolate them from participation in our communities and life together.

Do you agree with Bishop Benoway? If you do, take action by visiting the LIRS Action Center and supporting both the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform.

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