For evidence of the political minefield that is immigration reform, look no further than the Florida Senate.
On one side is Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who is looking to attract tea-party conservatives to his Republican bid for U.S. Senate, along with others in the GOP — including Gov. Rick Scott — who want to show they are taking action to tackle illegal immigration.
On the other side are the state’s powerful Hispanic caucus and some of the biggest special interests in Florida: the Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Catholic Conference, farmers and other agricultural interests. The clergy argues a crackdown would be immoral; the business groups worry it would be a blow to the state’s limping economy.
All of this puts Haridopolos in a bind. As Senate candidate, he doesn’t just need conservative voters: He needs cash. And groups like the chamber, AIF and U.S. Sugar have it.
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For now, he has stayed out of the fray. Taking the heat is the person he tasked with shepherding the Senate’s immigration bill: Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores.
Angry immigrants and their children last week swarmed Flores on the dais. Commentators on the Spanish-language airwaves in Miami have likened her bill to a controversial immigration law in Arizona that has been partly blocked by the courts.
Flores’ response has been to tell critics that things could be worse without her — a Cuban-American sensitive to the feelings of Hispanics — at the helm.
“This year, an immigration law is going to pass,” Flores said this week on Mega TV’s María Elvira Live. “If I don’t do it, someone else will.”