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Hundreds begin protests against Florida immigration bills

By Nick Valencia, CNN
  • Demonstrators are mostly students, farm workers, immigrant families and advocates
  • Bills would force employers to verify proper documentation, senator says
  • The bills come as Arizona's immigration law is stuck in a federal appeals court

(CNN) -- With less than two weeks before the scheduled last day of the Florida legislative session, demonstrators against the state's proposed immigration bills are putting on a full court press.

On Monday an estimated 600 people, mostly Hispanic students, farm workers, immigrant families and advocates, boarded buses from Clearwater to the capitol building in Tallahassee where they began a week of scheduled demonstrations against SB 2040 and HB 7089.

The bills come as Arizona's immigration law is stuck in a federal appeals court.

If passed, Florida's bills would turn "all local law enforcement into immigration agents," the League of United Latin American Citizens said in a written statement.

"With these powers, local police can ask anyone for papers regardless of their status. Just like Sheriff Joe Arpaio does in Arizona," the statement said. "This bill also mandates 'e-verify' for all businesses under the threat of license revocation."

Republican Sen. Anitere Flores proposed one of the bills.

"Senate Bill 2040 in its current form simply seeks to ensure that in a time of such great unemployment, employers are verifying that any new employees hired have proper documentation to work," Flores said in an email to CNN. "Senate Bill 2040 does not deputize police officers, nor does it criminalize immigrants."

She is against an Arizona-style immigration bill, she said.

Gov. Rick Scott has indicated that he is in favor of moving along with immigration reform soon, but he has come short of endorsing the proposed bills.

HB 7089 would give law enforcement the ability to check the documented status of people under criminal investigation if there is "reasonable suspicion." It would also make being undocumented a state crime.

The scheduled last day for the Florida legislative session is May 6.