Thursday, October 21, 2010

Papers, Please, Unless You’re Canadian

Florida is coming up with its own version of the Arizona immigration law, and according to this story by Elsie Foley in the Washington Independent, it basically gives white people a free pass.

The bill includes a provision allowing Canadians and Western Europeans to be “presumed to be legally in the United States,” even though other non-citizens must carry papers. Florida’s bill, which was drafted by Rep. William Snyder (R), has support from Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for governor. Although proponents of the legislation argue it would not lead to racial profiling, the provision on Canadians and Western Europeans — most of whom are white non-Latinos — brings up new concerns for Latino groups. (The Miami New Times, which originally pointed out the provision, has a full copy of the draft bill.)

Latino and immigrant rights groups have fervently opposed the bill, which would mimic Arizona’s SB 1070 by requiring police to check legal status on anyone they “reasonable suspicions” of being in the country illegally if the police have already stopped them. The provision would allow them to assume legal status if the person had a Canadian passport or a “passport from any ‘visa waiver country’” — which are primarily located in Western Europe. “That language makes it clear that police are targeting only a specific minority,” Susana Barciela, policy director at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, told the Miami New Times.

Mr. Snyder also made it quite clear that he’s exempting Canadians because they’re vital to the tourist industry; a lot of them spend their winters here, he noted, and he wants to be “sensitive” to them. (Since when have conservatives ever given a rat’s ass about being “sensitive”?)

Adam Serwer
says that the goal of the bill is to reduce the Latino population in Florida. Actually, that would be the non-Cuban Latino population, since Cubans already get the Priority Access treatment thanks to the current law that lets them in without going through all the bother if they can make it to dry land in Key Biscayne.

I also agree with Mr. Serwer: at least this bill does away with all the pretense about trying to write an immigration law that doesn’t target people who look like they might be an “illegal immigrant.”