TALLAHASSEE — The passions stirring around the issue of immigration are fueling Florida’s race for governor, where candidates are making promises on a subject mostly controlled by the federal government.
Florida is not a border state, but it faces many of the challenges as a destination for undocumented immigrants seeking work and sanctuary. Although a governor has little power over enforcement of immigration, Florida’s gubernatorial candidates are making promises that might be hard to keep and making proposals that could push the boundaries of state authority on the issue.
Republican candidates are embracing President Donald Trump’s agenda to close the borders and crack down on immigration. One is calling for a broad national plan that would help Florida businesses benefit from legal immigrant labor. The other is promising to adopt strict requirements that state companies verify an applicant’s legal status before hiring them.
Democratic candidates are blasting Trump’s policies, promising to work at the state level to derail efforts to detain undocumented immigrants, create protections for those who came here illegally as children and leave alone communities that might want to limit cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain and deport those living here.
The effects of federal immigration policies have long been felt in Florida, which has an estimated 850,000 undocumented immigrants. South Florida organizations receive federal cash to shelter undocumented children, some of whom have been recently separated from their parents at the border. School systems educate children brought here by their families. State taxpayers cover the cost of a small population of criminal undocumented immigrants in Florida prisons.
Once elected, Florida’s governor will work with a Republican-controlled Legislature that in recent years has tried, and failed, to pass hard-line immigration proposals. The governor holds veto power over immigration-related measures passed by state lawmakers and can exercise limited authority through executive action.
By Ana Ceballos for NAPLES DAILY NEWS
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