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The death of immigration reform: Just what Big Business wants

Was illegal immigration a top issue for you in last year's campaign?

Were you one of those who voted for a candidate specifically because he ran around screaming the word "Arizona" a lot?

If so, you got played for a fool.

Because, with one day left in the session, the legislature hasn't done squat on immigration reform.

And here's the reality: Most lawmakers never planned to, either. Their corporate masters wouldn't allow it.

Cheap and illegal labor is good for business.

After all, not everyone is willing to pick tomatoes for 2 cents a pound.

Or cut grass for less than minimum wage.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Big Business hates the idea of mandatory E-Verification.

E-Verify is the federal government's free computer program, which allows businesses to check the names of potential hires against the government's citizenship and records database.

It's cheap. It's effective. And it makes a whole lot more sense than controversial and legally questionable tactics like warrantless arrests and trying to turn local cops into border-patrol agents.

E-Verify gets at the root of the immigration issue under the theory that fewer people would be enticed to illegally enter the country if there wasn't a payday waiting for them.

The idea isn't that radical. In fact, E-Verify is the one part of immigration reform that serious-minded people on both sides of the aisle can agree on.

Several other states — yes, including Arizona — have already passed some version of mandatory e-Verify.

More than 230,000 companies nationwide already voluntarily use the program.

But most of Big Business hates it. Just this week, the Florida Chamber of Commerce emailed its members, instructing them to "Please call your Senator now and tell them to OPPOSE MANDATORY E-VERIFY."

That was Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday afternoon, immigration reform was declared dead.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos said the issue was just too darn complicated, saying: "We all saw the complexity of the debate today, how difficult the issue is."

Sure, these guys found time to try to reshape everything from Medicaid to the Florida Supreme Court. But they just couldn't wrap their little minds around passing a simple piece of legislation meant to enforce laws that are already on the books.

Interestingly enough, Haridopolos didn't find the issue too complex a few months ago when he was standing in front of a rowdy crowd of immigration-reformers that was chanting: "E-VERIFY! E-VERIFY!"

No, back then, Haridopolos promised to get the job done. "I hear this word E-verify," he said, grinning widely in a video posted on the St. Petersburg Times website. ""Well, I'm here to verify it will be a part of our senate bill!"

Except it's not.

Haridopolos isn't the only one falling short of the red-meat promises he previously dished out.

Heck, Rick Scott wouldn't be governor if he hadn't beaten Bill McCollum over the head with planks from the border fence.

During the GOP primary, Scott's campaign website declared: "Rick will require all Florida employers to use the free E-Verify system to ensure that their workers are legal."

But then Scott won the primary … and the corporate check-writers who'd been backing McCollum started sucking up to Scott.

We haven't heard as much about E-Verify since.

There's still the slightest of chances these guys will actually do what they promised in the waning hours of this session.

But probably not.

They've already played many immigration-obsessed voters for saps once … and have little reason to think they can't do it again.

smaxwell@tribune.com or 407-420-6141

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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