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More Than Controlling Immigration

Minimum wage advocates protest at the Capitol. (N. Jaramillo/SEIU 1199)
Minimum wage advocates protest at the Capitol. (N. Jaramillo/SEIU 1199)
February 22, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - With the legislative session now in its final 30 days, many Floridians are hoping lawmakers will approve several measures that would help working families.

Monica Russo is the president of Florida's Service Employees International Union. She says the legislature wasted a lot of time arguing over local enforcement of federal immigration laws; legislation now stalled in the Senate.

Instead, she'd like lawmakers to turn their attention to measures that lift up low-wage workers, like raising the state's minimum wage. And she thinks helping new Americans is a better approach than trying to push them down.

"We should be investing in the workforce, of which immigrants play a critical part," says Russo. "We should be making sure the kids are integrated into schools and their communities, and have access to the healthcare that is available, that they know how to get their Earned Income Tax Credits."

Supporters of measures to raise the minimum wage from its current $8.05 per hour to $15 per hour have held numerous rallies at the Capitol in recent days, and say they will continue to do so until the end of the session.

Russo believes the attention on immigration during the early part of the legislative session was unfortunate.

"They're not criminals. They are everyday people just trying to feed their families and provide a future for their communities," says Russo. "They pay taxes, they contribute to the economy. They're the heart and the soul and the guts of our economy."

Despite all the wrangling, the Senate Judiciary committee has said it will not hear any immigration bills this session.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL