Rick Scott promised voters in 2010 he would bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida.
The pledge — repeated over and over in television and radio advertisements — helped Scott both win over conservatives who didn’t know the first-time candidate and expose his Republican primary opponent Bill McCollum as an immigration flip-flopper.
But with two legislative sessions in the books, Scott hasn’t just failed to pass an Arizona law, parts of which were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.
He’s stopped talking about it.
PolitiFact Florida is tracking 57 of Scott’s promises on the Scott-O-Meter, including promises to implement Arizona-style legislation and a requirement that Florida businesses use a federal database to make sure their employees are in the country legally. Both are rated Promise Broken.
“He got the majority of the vote for running on those promises,” said Bill Landes, a Lake Wales tea party supporter and chairman of the Florida Minutemen Organization. “And now for him to do an about-face, it’s like a heart-wrenching stab in the back for the citizens who helped elect him.”
The Legislature in 2011 attempted but failed to pass a requirement that businesses use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of their workers.
Lawmakers never seriously considered the idea in 2012, and Scott all but said he opposed a statewide requirement recently — saying he didn’t want to put Florida businesses at a disadvantage.
An Arizona-style law, meanwhile, has never been voted on by the full Legislature.
Scott dodged questions about immigration policies this week when asked about his reaction to the Supreme Court decision.
“I haven’t seen that decision,” Scott said. “I still believe the federal government ought to secure our borders. They ought to have a national immigration policy and take responsibility for this. I think the states have had to respond because the federal government hasn’t.
“We need to have an immigration policy that Americans understand, and those who want to come to our country understand. And we shouldn’t be putting our Florida businesses or American business at an economic disadvantage because we don’t have a well-defined work visa plan that makes sense.”
Advocates for immigrants say Scott is following a national trend of states stepping back from harsh enforcement measures.
“Responsible, pragmatic Republicans in a lot of states are seeing what happened in states that went with all-out enforcement,” said Tamar Jacoby, of Immigration Works USA.
Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, an activist group that endorsed Scott based on his strong pledges to crack down on illegal immigration, isn’t happy with Scott’s changing rhetoric.
“He never campaigned on this phony-baloney guest worker program,” said David Caulkett, vice president and founder. “That wasn’t part of his campaign.” (Scott has earned a Promise Kept on the Scott-O-Meter for opposing “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.)
Caulkett said he believes Scott was swayed from his hard-and-fast campaign position by business interests, and he doubts Scott will press the issue while in office.
It’s a far cry from the 2010 campaign, when Scott hammered McCollum for his evolving stance on the Arizona law, SB 1070.
McCollum initially called the law “far out.” Then he said he liked it with an amendment that aimed to prevent racial profiling, though he said Florida didn’t need it. In July 2010, McCollum joined seven states opposing the federal government’s lawsuit against the Arizona law. Weeks before the primary, McCollum touted a draft of the law that he wanted applied in Florida.
Scott toned down the immigration talk in the general election against Democrat Alex Sink.
Now he hardly talks about it at all.
Katie Sanders can be reached at email@example.com.