Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, in a calculated and desperate political move for the GOP Gubernatorial nomination, has decided to introduce an even harsher and more outrageous version of Arizona's SB 1070 anti-immigrant bill. Evidently deciding that if it worked for a politician of limited ability like Jan Brewer it might work in Florida, McCollum unveiled a bill that would:
- Require all immigrants to carry documentation
- Empower police to question anyone they reasonably suspect to be here illegally
- Impose tougher penalties for crimes if they are committed by illegal aliens
McCollum, who first distinguished himself as one of the most vociferous proponents of President Clinton's impeachment, even becoming one of the House Managers for the Articles of Impeachment, has been twisting in the political wind ever since. He's since tried, and failed, twice for the U.S. Senate, and presumably ran for A.G. as a holding pattern for another shot at the big time. He's now locked in a battle for the GOP nomination and it is no surprise that a primary strategy would include pandering to the hard-right in Florida. This is, after all, the man who filed suit to remove Florida from the reach of the Health Care Reform law, and who eagerly defended a statute prohibiting gays and lesbians from adopting children in the state of Florida.
And he needs a distraction. In a state with a large elderly population statewide, McCollum consistently voted in Congress to cut Medicare and raise the eligibility age for Social Security. He needs to play on fears, on the lowest common denominator, in order to have a chance in a state where the moderates are the swing vote in statewide elections. What better way than to champion a populist law eagerly backed by nativists and xenophobes, and which may appeal in a visceral way to regular persons scared about their future? The fact that the law will undoubtedly be declared unconstitutional if it were ever enacted (hopefully after the election) is immaterial to the perceived electoral benefit to McCollum.
There is nothing in McCollum's proposal that separates it from the serious constitutional infirmities suffered by Arizona's SB 1070. The District Court opinion in Arizona lays it out in simple, concise terms. Even the "no racial profiling" clause (which was also present in the Arizona law) doesn't pass constitutional muster, because in its application it is clear that one, and only one ethnic group will be the target of these police dragnets. But he doesn't care. His record on the Clinton Impeachment shows that his respect for the law is far outweighed by his avarice for the spotlight.
In the meantime, McCollum glorifies anti-immigrant activists and strikes fear and uncertainty into the heart of every person, citizen, legal, or illegal, of Hispanic heritage in Florida. This is cynical pander politics at its worst. At best, it hopefully awakes the sleeping giant of Latino voters in Florida, who should understand, as Senator Reid tried to say the other day in Nevada, that there is no place in the GOP for a Latino, no place in a party that would throw you, your parents, and your children under the bus in a quest for a few electoral votes.