Anti-immigrant activists across the country are still on a high after their referendum campaign in Oregon last year that overturned bi-partisan legislation providing driving rights for undocumented residents.
Undoubtedly emboldened by the result of Oregon’s Measure 88 vote, the organized anti-immigrant movement is now setting its sights on a much more ambitious target: a constitutional amendment mandating E-Verify workplace enforcement in Florida.
FAIR admitted to backing an anti-immigrant referendum campaign in Oregon last year. Given its previous efforts working with FLIMEN on E-Verify, it will surely do the same to promote and support this ballot initiative in Florida.
While the bold campaign goal would require a significant amount of money and effort in order to have a meaningful presence in Florida’s many media markets, the organized anti-immigrant movement is already looking to provide its full support.
Mere hours after Jack Oliver, of the anti-immigrant Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN), appeared on The Joyce Kaufman Show in March, NumbersUSA hosted an event in Deerfield Beach, Florida and allowed Oliver and other members of FLIMEN to present on their ballot initiative. Those present at the event included NumbersUSA President Roy Beck and Local Activism Coordinator Melanie Oubre.
Last week, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) – the flagship organization of the anti-immigrant movement – issued an action alert to supporters in Florida sharing information on the ballot initiative, including a link to the petition and the campaign’s official website. “Only with your help can we give Florida’s voters a voice and get this amendment on Florida’s 2016 ballot,” the alert reads. In February, FAIR produced a four-minute video featuring FAIR board member Frank Morris offering “a message for all Floridians” in support of the ballot initiative. The video is unlisted on YouTube, but it prominently displayed on the Floridians for E-Verify Now website.
FAIR previously revealed that it had directed substantial resources to “assist state immigration reform activists in their efforts to educate Oregon voters about the issues and the dangers of granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens” during the Measure 88 campaign. Given its previous efforts working with FLIMEN on E-Verify, it will surely do the same to promote and support this ballot initiative.
Oliver, the legislative director of FLIMEN, registered the domains for a website titled “Floridians for E-Verify Now.” In February, records from the Florida Department of State show Oliver registered Floridians for E-Verify, Inc. and a corresponding political committee. The signature gathering campaign then began in earnest on March 19, when Oliver appeared on south Florida radio host Joyce Kaufman’s program to announce the campaign and have Kaufman be the first to sign the referendum petition. The Floridians for E-Verify Now website launched shortly thereafter.
In addition to the fact that E-Verify does little to halt unauthorized immigration and mostly burdens employers and employees alike, there are other obstacles proponents of the ballot initiative will have to face.
In order to successfully place an E-Verify referendum on the Florida ballot next year, Oliver and his colleagues will need to collect 683,149 valid signatures from the state’s registered voters – about 5.6% of the total electorate as of March 2015. Additionally, the signatures must come from at least 14 of the state’s 27 congressional districts. In Oregon, activists only required signatures of approximately 2.5% of the state’s registered voters to get Measure 88 on the 2014 ballot – a figure they only surpassed by 149 signatures.
In the event the ballot initiative campaign does collect enough valid signatures, the proposed constitutional amendment would still need approval from 60% of voters in the 2016 election in order to be adopted.
FLIMEN’s own website notes: “While FLIMEN supports enforcement legislation similar to Arizona’s SB1070, the number one priority legislation of FLIMEN remains full E-Verify.” For years, the group has unsuccessfully pursued mandatory E-Verify through legislative means – namely the “Florida Citizens Employment Protections Act” which was authored by FAIR’s legal affiliate, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). Now FLIMEN and its allies are seeking to bypass the legislature altogether.
It is certainly too early to tell if they will be successful this time. However, as we saw most recently in Oregon, this movement can still advance nativist policy goals via such referendums. And by focusing next on Florida’s challenging electoral landscape, they don’t appear to be lacking in confidence.
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