Central Florida GOP state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia on the floor of the Senate on April 26, 2023 (photo credit: Mitch Perry)
As a major legislative crackdown on illegal immigration moves closer to passage in the Florida Senate, two Democrats on Thursday took issue with a provision in the bill that many Republicans supported nine years ago — allowing the undocumented to be admitted into the Florida Bar.
During questions in the Senate, Central Florida Democrat Victor Torres said that he had voted with many Republicans in the state House in 2014 for a bill that included the Florida Bar provision. At the time, the bill allowed the Florida Supreme Court to admit noncitizens to the Florida Bar if they met certain qualifications, including being brought to the U.S. as a minor, having been issued a Social Security number and living in the country for a decade or longer.
“You think that was the wrong call for all of us, even in your own party?” Torres asked Central Florida Republican Blaise Ingoglia, the bill sponsor.
“I’m not going to speak of the motives of what certain members did or did not do,” replied Ingoglia.
Tampa Bay area Democrat Darryl Rouson followed up, asking Ingoglia what has changed since then to have party members want to repeal the measure?
Ingoglia said “a bunch” has changed since then.
“We have a porous open southern border that is wreaking havoc on our communities, our state budgets, county budgets, city budgets, and the realization that the federal government is never going to fix it unless the states push back,” he said.
Allowing the undocumented to be admitted into the Florida Bar was one of two major pro-immigration pieces of legislation that then-Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature passed in 2014. The other was allowing undocumented students (i.e. “Dreamers”) to qualify for in-state tuition rates to attend Florida colleges and universities. Gov. Ron DeSantis specifically listed that proposal as a measure in the 2023 session, but Republican lawmakers have not included it in big immigration bills moving this spring.
The immigration legislation is expected to be approved in both chambers of the Legislature in the coming days. It will then go to DeSantis’ desk for his consideration.
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