Florida attorney general seeks tougher immigration law

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Bill McCollum
Image caption,
Attorney General Bill McCollum thinks Arizona is "going to want this law"

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican running for governor, has proposed immigration legislation that seeks to toughen measures against illegal immigrations in the state.

The proposal would require police to check a suspected illegal immigrant's status while enforcing other laws.

The move could throw Florida into a heated immigration debate ahead of mid-term elections on 2 November.

The proposal is similar to a disputed law introduced in part in Arizona.

A judge in Arizona last month issued a temporary injunction blocking elements of that law from coming into effect - including a requirement that police check the immigration status of suspected criminals.

Increased penalties

Enforcement officials in Florida are currently allowed to check a person's immigration status, but are not required to as they would be under the proposed new law.

The legislation would also require Florida businesses to use a verification system to ensure new employees are legally authorised to work and increase penalties for illegal aliens who commit crimes in Florida, according to a statement released by Mr McCollum's office.

The statement also states illegal aliens would face increased prison terms in Florida under the revised legislation.

Mr McCollum's office said the immigration proposal "goes one step further" than the law passed in Arizona, by "giving judges and law enforcement more tools" in dealing with immigrants.

"Florida will not be a sanctuary state for illegal aliens," Mr McCollum said in the statement.

He added: "Floridians want to see their elected officials provide leadership to the challenges of illegal aliens living our state."

Florida, in the south-east corner of the US, is a large migration hub for immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America.

Mr McCollum said at a event on Wednesday he thought Arizona was "going to want this law".

Mr McCollum's office said it had made changes to the draft legislation to strengthen it against constitutional challenges, after parts of the Arizona law were blocked by a federal judge in late July.

The measure in Arizona, which requires immigrants to carry documentation or face a misdemeanour charge, is on hold while a federal court battle continues.

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