Bills targeting illegal immigration have yet to make much headway in the state Legislature.


TALLAHASSEE -- Just listen and don't make any noise.

Earlier in the year, before heading to Tallahassee, that was the approach Miami-Dade legislators decided to take on a series of proposed bills they oppose dealing with the issue of illegal immigration.

The strategy may have worked.

With less than a week to go for a series of immigration bills to be approved for final votes on the House floor, the prospects of the measures passing are ''slim to none,'' said Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican who chairs the House Rules and Calendar committee, which decides when bills get heard.

''The last thing we wanted was to come up here and start drawing lines and making noise,'' said Rep. Juan Zapata, a Miami Republican and chairman of the Miami-Dade delegation.

``That's exactly what these people wanted -- the attention. It's an election year, and immigration is an easy issue to press on.''


The dozen bills being pitched in the House and Senate would increase employer verification requirements, give local law enforcement agencies more authority to check for immigration status of people pulled over for DUIs, and ban county or city funding for day-laborer centers such as one that exists in South Dade.

Florida lawmakers looking to pass bills targeted at curbing illegal immigration faced one major hurdle this session -- convincing South Florida legislators, who hold key leadership positions in the House and Senate, to support their cause.

Without the backing of House Speaker Marco Rubio, the first Cuban-American to hold the position, the bills failed to get any major play in their committees. Six weeks into the session, a three-hour workshop was held on the six House bills, but even that failed to produce its desired intent of combining the bills into one larger committee bill.


''Speaker Rubio outlined the priorities of the session and this didn't fall under that list,'' said Rivera, one of Rubio's lieutenants.

Cities and states across the country have been passing a patchwork of immigration enforcement laws in record numbers -- 244 immigration bills were passed in 46 states in 2007 according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

All the more reason for Florida to jump on board to pass its own legislation, says Rep. Gayle Harrell, a Jupiter Republican, proposing a bill that among other things would require state agencies to verify the citizenship of any public assistance applicant older than 14.

''We're frustrated that it hasn't moved faster,'' said Harrell, who added that she's prepared to fight for the bill for the rest of the session.


Her pitch -- and those of legislators backing such bills, including Rep. Don Brown, a DeFuniak Springs Republican and Sen. Michael Bennett, a Bradenton Republican -- might appeal to voters who say they are fed up with illegal immigrants encroaching on their communities.

''My town is now called Little Mexico,'' Deland resident Ann Lambertson told legislators at the immigration hearing.


The Florida Legislative Hispanic Caucus, to which most Dade legislators belong, opposes the bills.

The group has also taken a similar wait-and-see approach to the measures, noting that it would be ''prepared to provide accurate facts about the benefits that immigration has provided to Florida,'' said Rep. J.C. Planas, a Miami Republican who chairs the caucus.

''I find it ironic that looking back at the presidential election, the two candidates that spoke the most about immigration as an issue, [Tom] Tancredo and [Mitt] Romney, finished last in Florida,'' Planas said.

``Tancredo didn't even get to Florida, and Romney didn't win here. Obviously its not that big of a political issue that the public is concerned about in lieu of the economy.''