Florida state Rep. William Snyder, the slow-drawling ex-Miami-Dade Police officer who has drafted Tallahassee's version of the hotly debated Arizona immigration bill, is adamant that his law would not 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.
So why does his bill explicitly offer a free pass to Canadians and Western Europeans, who need only show a passport to be "presumed to be legally in the United States"?
Florida immigration bill
"That language makes it clear that police are targeting only a specific minority," says Susana Barciela, policy director at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.
If you've somehow missed the months of heated bickering, Arizona's bill allows state cops to demand papers from anyone detained lawfully whom they have "reasonable suspicions" of being an illegal alien.
Critics ask how anything other than skin color or a Hispanic name could lead to such "reasonable suspicions." But constitutional questions aside, the bill's appeal to xenophobic right-wingers has led politicos nationwide to craft their own states' imitations.
Snyder drafted his homage in August, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott last week pledged to support the bill if elected.
What few observers seem to have noticed, though, is a bizarre clause Snyder included on page 3. 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, all 36 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?
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Snyder backed out of an interview with Riptide, but here's what he said on immigration advocate Subhash Kateel's radio show on 880 AM last week:
"What we're doing there is trying to be sensitive to Canadians. We have an enormous amount of... Canadians wintering here in Florida," he said. "That language is comfort language."
Comfort language, eh?
If Scott wins and Snyder's bill becomes law, we're sure the thousands of Latin Americans who spend their summers in Miami will be ever so comforted.