by Carl Wernicke
The Florida Legislature has long been fond of imposing unfunded mandates on
local governments. After all, it's always easier to tell lower-level governments
what to do -- and let them figure out how to pay for it.
Meanwhile, in 2011 legislators will face a cratered state economy, a poisoned Gulf of Mexico and a potentially disastrous education budget. At the local level, cities and counties will be trying to avoid laying off police and fire fighters, pave roads and not cut services too much.
Naturally, this seems like a good time to legislators to seek to "authorize" local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of people they "believe" might be illegal immigrants.
This no doubt will juice up state politics ... but we doubt it will do anything to help Floridians deal with the real problems facing them.
Yes, we need to secure the nation's borders, still porous despite the thousands of new border agents hired in recent years, and billions of new dollars poured into their salaries and the budgets of agencies patrolling the border.
And yes, we need a more effective program to ensure that employers don't hire illegal immigrants (without turning this nation into a police state where "show me your papers" is reality, not a B-movie joke.)
We also need an effective guest worker program to create a focused, legal way for businesses to tap into the immigrant labor market that won't be denied.
Without a comprehensive approach to immigration, there simply is no way to overcome the human will that is pushing the tide of immigration into the United States without resorting to the sort of draconian police state tactics we hope most Americans are not prepared to accept.
Meanwhile, we hope voters wondering about the seriousness of their legislators won't let these political games distract them from legislators' real duty.