BRADENTON — If an Arizona-type immigration law passes in Florida, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube is clear on his position: He “better get the personnel to handle it.”
“This will be another unfunded mandate that our county will have to fund,” Steube said Tuesday during a Republican Women Federated forum at Bradenton Country Club.
The immigration issue might soon be hitting close to home for Floridians.
Arizona’s SB 1070, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, is said to be the toughest bill on illegal immigration in the country. Last month, however, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the most controversial aspects of the law. Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has proposed a bill that would require police to determine immigration status of a person during the course of a traffic stop, or another law violation, if they have a “reasonable suspicion” the person is in the country illegally.
Steube’s concern: “To be in the United States illegally is not a deportable offense. It’s a crime. It is not a deportable offense. There has to be a crime committed with it.”
“Since 2008, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has removed, and this is throughout the United States, 30,000 criminal aliens. Only 8,500 were convicted of committing crimes such has homicide, rape, kidnapping and robbery,” Steube said.
After Steube’s speech and a movie on people crossing the border to Arizona illegally, the meeting became an open forum about immigration, with people of various views sharing their beliefs.
Babbs Howland, 53, spoke of her need for people who immigrate to this country to assimilate and learn English.
“I don’t have anything against them. But if you come to this country you should learn to speak English,” said Howland, of Sarasota.
From the other side, a tearful Rev. Joe Cadena, of the Centro Vida Nueva, told his story of living in this country illegally and how his mother, to this day, does not speak English.
Others simply took all the words as a learning experience.
“I didn’t realize how difficult it is for them to be deported,” said Susan Benardo, 52, of Bradenton.
Steube closed by reminding the audience that illegal immigrants are not just those who come to this country from Mexico.
“They come from all over the world,” he said.