Florida State Representative William Snyder, a former police officer from Miami, drafted his own version of Arizona’s SB 1070 for the state—a bill has the potential to be even more offensive. The bill mimics SB 1070—allowing officers to stop persons based on a “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented in order to check their immigration status. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Rep. Synder’s bill actually goes a step further by providing a caveat that the person stopped will be presumed legal if they have a Canadian passport or a passport from a country which participates in our visa waiver program—the majority of which are Western European countries. Naturally, this caveat has groups enraged over the potential for racial profiling.

Of course, Rep. Snyder does not believe that the law will lead to racial profiling:

“Race, ethnicity, and national origin cannot be used in making arrests. It’s immoral, illegal, and unconstitutional,” he said in a recent radio interview.

Miami NewTimes writer, Tim Elfrink, disagrees:

Even if an officer has “reasonable suspicions” over a person’s immigration status, the bill says, a person will be “presumed to be legally in the United States” if he or she provides “a Canadian passport” or a passport from any “visa waiver country.” What are the visa waiver countries? Other than four Asian nations, almost all of the 32 other countries are in Western Europe, from France to Germany to Luxembourg. In other words, Snyder’s bill tells police to drop their “reasonable suspicions” of anyone hailing from dozens of countries full of white people. How is that not racial profiling?

So how does Rep. Snyder explain the special clause for Canadians? In a radio interview, he explains: “What we’re doing there is trying to be sensitive to Canadians. We have an enormous amount of… Canadians wintering here in Florida… That language is comfort language.” Comforting for Canadians, perhaps, but probably less so for many of the other tourists and residents of Florida. As Gabriela Garcia of Change.org points out:

Ah, yes tons of Canadians winter here in Florida … along with MILLIONS of South Americans. In the biggest tourism destination in the state, Miami, people from South America comprise 52% of the visitors alone… These are people with plenty of disposable income, and plenty of tourism options. If Florida became a state suspicious of Latinos, they would just take their billions of dollars elsewhere. For a state whose economy relies so heavily on tourism, especially from Latin America, you’d think politicians would be a little bit more worried about making everyone feel comfortable.

Morally, constitutionally, and economically, this law would be bad policy for Florida. Amazingly, Rep. Snyder seems to be not only blind to the economic and political controversy SB 1070 is stirring in Arizona, but blind to the potential strife caused by racially profiling Florida’s many non-white citizens.

Photo by Ðariusz.