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The Golden Door

News and views on immigration law

Posts Tagged ‘Canadian’

Florida’s copycat S.B. 1070 – exempting Canadians and Europeans

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Here’s an example of draft legislation illustrating the thinking of the sponsoring politician. In Florida, Republican state representative William Snyder has crafted an immigration bill modeled on Arizona’s S.B. 1070 that specifically exempts Canadians and visa waiver program countries, that is, mostly European countries, with a smattering of former European colonies and affluent Asian nations, from the provisions of the bill.

Let me explain.  Representative Snyder’s bill, like S.B. 1070, requires law enforcement personnel to try to determine the immigration status of anyone they encounter in a lawful stop, detention, or arrest, if they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe that that individual is an undocumented immigrant.  This requirement to ascertain immigration status, however, does not apply if the detained person flashes a Canadian passport or a passport from one of the 36 visa waiver program countries. In effect, Canadians and most Western Europeans and the other lucky nationals of visa waiver countries get a free pass under this proposed legislation.  Police are just supposed to drop their “reasonable suspicion” of the undocumented status of these foreign nationals upon presentation of their passports.

I have to make a brief detour here, back to a point I’ve made in a prior post about what we’re asking law enforcement personnel to do under S.B. 1070 and its copycat bills.  So, presumably police officers, state troopers, and sheriffs and their deputies, etc., are supposed to keep a little cheat sheet of the current list of visa waiver countries in their smartphones, or maybe a link to the Department of State website of which countries participate in the visa waiver program, because this list isn’t set in stone and countries come and go.  Or maybe law enforcement personnel will just be expected to memorize this information, like definitions of crimes.  But in any case, in the event of a law enforcement encounter with an individual who the officer suspects may be in the United States illegally, when that officer looks over that person’s immigration papers, the officer will then have to think, “Hold on, is Andorra one of the visa waiver countries?  Should I radio this back to headquarters?”  Is this really what we want to put our law enforcement personnel through?

But anyway, back to the main topic.

If I had to try to justify this exemption of Canadians and nationals from visa waiver countries in Representative Snyder’s bill, I would hazard to say that the thinking was that Canada and the visa waiver countries might be a convenient short-hand for foreign nationals unlikely to be undocumented immigrants.  I’ll note, though, that one country, at least, is both a visa waiver country and one of the top 10 countries of origin for undocumented immigrants.  I would be curious to see a recent top 20 list to see how much overlap there is between the 36 visa waiver countries and the countries of origin of undocumented immigrants, but the Department of Homeland Security only seems to provide the top 10 countries, leaving 1.65 million people labeled unhelpfully as coming from “other countries.”  (In a 1996 report, INS listed 20 countries; but the most recent report only lists the top 10.)  However, this is not the reason that Representative Snyder put forth when questioned about this part of his bill.  His exact words:  “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.”

Let me translate this.  Canadian tourists spend a lot of money in Florida.  Let’s not alienate them, or the mostly European visa waiver nationals, by holding them accountable for obeying our immigration laws.  We only really need to kick out the Latinos and Africans and Asians because they don’t contribute as much to our tourism economy and, well, to be honest, we all know that these are the real riff-raff that cause all the problems in the state.

Is there any other way to interpret this provision of Representative Snyder’s bill?

Djung Tran, Esq.

Tran Law Associates

834 Chestnut Street #206
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 690-1933