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The first crack at an Arizona-style immigration overhaul has been filed in the Florida Senate, with a proposal that would let law enforcement officers ask suspected illegal aliens to prove their immigration status and could penalize some legal immigrants who aren't carrying proper documentation.
The bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, is the first volley in a likely long and heated debate over the future of immigration policy in the state. Since the passage of the Arizona law last spring, many Florida Republicans - including Gov.-elect Rick Scott - have argued that Florida needs a similar law and campaigned on the issue throughout the summer and into the fall.
``Any time you file a bill it's basically opening up for dialogue, opening up for discussion, opening up for debate,'' Bennett said.
Scott, in particular, made the Arizona law a major piece of his race for governor, frequently mentioning it at campaign stops and urging Floridians to follow his lead and make a donation to Arizona's Border Security and Immigration Legal Defense Fund. Since his election in November, the incoming governor has been largely quiet on the subject and has not drawn up any specific proposals yet, but his spokesman said the governor maintains his position on the issue.
``I have no specifics right now on what an immigration bill would have to have, but his position is still if someone violates Florida laws, the police should ask if they are legal or not,'' said Scott spokesman Trey Stapleton. ``If they are in the state illegally they should be deported.''