Featured Speaker At Hispanic GOP Conference: SB-1070 Supporters ‘Motivated By Racist Reasons’

Florida State Sen. Anitere Flores (R)

This past weekend, many Republican leaders convened in Miami for the Hispanic Leadership Network Inaugural Conference to discuss how their party can do a better job of reaching out to Latinos. While speakers pointed to possible areas of solidarity between the GOP and Latinos, one topic of discussion was notably absent from the event: widespread Republican support for SB-1070 type bills. Even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who expressed concern in the past that his Mexican-American wife and their children “might look awfully suspicious to police” if they were in Phoenix, did not make mention of the SB-1070 elephant in the room during the conference.

The convention’s keynote speaker, however, Florida Gov Rick Scott (R), has been outspoken about his desire to bring Arizona’s SB-1070 law to the Sunshine State. During the election, Scott ran advertisements praising the legislation as “common sense” and declared we need to “bring the Arizona immigration law here to Florida. Now.”

During the weekend conference, ThinkProgress caught up with one of the featured speakers, State Sen. Anitere Flores (R), to see whether she will help make Gov. Scott’s wish for a Florida SB-1070 law a reality. Flores, a rising star in the Florida Republican Party, had harsh words for politicians who support SB-1070, saying they were motivating by “racist reasons, to be very blunt.” She also worried that an SB-1070 law would give “the perception that we are a state that is not welcome to Hispanics.” Flores expressed optimism that like-minded state senators would be able to defeat any SB-1070 style legislation:

TP: I know one of the hot topics of debate, especially among Latinos, has been Arizona’s SB-1070 bill. What are your thoughts about that potentially coming to Florida?

FLORES: Well listen, I think that the biggest issue of that bill, while I believe we are a nation of laws and a nation of laws that must be respected, the biggest problem with that bill was the reason that it came about was for, in my opinion and the opinion of several others, for racist reasons, to be very blunt. And that’s the biggest issue that I have with it. Now will I agree that we must enforce our laws? It’s not something that a state can do on its own. I do understand why states are frustrated. […]

TP: I know Representative William Snyder has proposed an SB-1070 bill that would exempt Canadians and Western Europeans from its provisions and Governor Scott has praised the potential legislation and come out in support of that type of SB-1070 law. Does that concern you at all?

FLORES: […] Number one, there’s very little the state governments can do. And number two, the immigrant population, both legal and illegal, offer so much to this country and particularly to our state here, that we cannot give even the perception that we are a state that is not welcome to Hispanics. We’re not going to do that in the Senate and so I guess if we’re not going to do it in the Senate, it’s not going to happen in the state.

Watch it:

The SB-1070 legislation under consideration in Florida right now is a bill proposed by State Rep. William Snyder (R) that goes even further than Arizona’s law. Despite purporting to prohibit racial profiling, Snyder’s legislation explicitly exempts Canadians and Western Europeans from scrutiny. Latinos get no such pass.

Gov. Scott has said he will sign the bill if it comes to his desk.