FL Republican Senator on Arizona-style immigration bill: who will pick my blueberries?

Senate appropiations commmittee chair J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Florida Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander wants to get an Arizona-style immigration bill passed this session. Rick Scott campaigned on it. The tea party is demanding it, and J.D. is nothing if not accommodating.  But since the Senator is also a blueberry farmer, well … he’s got to have somebody to pick the crops …

And therein lies J.D.’s dilemma:

Sen. JD Alexander, the Senate budget chief now handling a controversial immigration crackdown proposal, told reporters Friday that he uses the federal government’s e-Verify system.

A citrus grower, Alexander said he turns prospective employees away if they don’t clear the system. But he did not give e-Verify a ringing endorsement. “It takes a while to really know the answer,” he said. “It has the potential of being wrong.”

“It’s a fair amount of cost,” he added — about $20 per person that doesn’t match. “It’s fairly expensive.”

… The budget chief’s concerns echoed those of the state’s powerful agricultural industry, which has resoundedly opposed SB 2040. So have big business, Disney, some local and law enforcement officials and immigration advocates.

Alexander said he has still not figured out what to do with the bill, which Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, yanked from Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

It sure is a problem. I mean who … who, I say … is going to pick J.D.’s scrumptious blueberries??? When you’ve got a blueberry issue, it turns out you become a lot more sympathetic to so-called “illegals…”

“My personal struggle with E-Verify is that many of these folks have been here for decades for good or for bad,” he said.

In “a perfect world” the federal government would control the borders but instead has given tacit permission for illegal workers to remain in the country, Alexander said.

“It seems challenging to suddenly ask them to not be able to be here. I personally believe we need a federal guest program to allow for some sort of normalization of these folks status where they can be protected by our laws without fear of deportation,” he said. “Because some of these things have been going on for so long, I’m personally troubled by the broad net that could be cast.”

Alexander said he’s having a hard time balancing his duties as budget chief and agricultural baron as he tries to get his blueberry crop harvested.

“I’m probably short about 100 people to get my blueberries picked,” he said, adding that he and other blueberry farmers can find less than half the workers they need to get their crops in.

“For all the unemployment there just aren’t folks who want to pick blueberries,” he said.

You’ll recall that J.D. and Anitere Flores were the two Republicans who got the feds called on them by a wacky tea party guy named Geoff Ross — an avid Marco Rubio supporter last fall, btw, apparently unaware of Rubio’s impurity on the whole immigration thing — who charged that Alexander and Flores were caught talking to “non-English speaking Hispanics,” which as you know, is a crime in Tea Party America (ahem

[See the response of the Florida Immigrant Coalition to Ross, and his counter-response here.]

Wonder what Field Marshall Ross will think of Alexander’s sympathy for the kind of people he’s short on to pick his blueberry crop.


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6 Responses to FL Republican Senator on Arizona-style immigration bill: who will pick my blueberries?

  1. I an concern on the issues as it unfolds in two directional setting, one is the lack of consideration towards immirgration laws and secondly to sheer apathy for the environmental issues surounding over population and over consumption.

  2. bmull says:

    Certain phrases let you spot a corporate Republican a mile away. “Guest worker program” is one of them. What’s going to happen to Alexander’s 100+ legal blueberry pickers when a flood of guest workers come in at sub-minimum wage and no payroll taxes?

    Why can’t we have a guest worker program that attempts to treat all workers fairly? Oh yeah we do: it’s called the H-2A visa.

  3. Andrew says:

    The hypocrisy of the republican party. They are in a jam. Between the tea smokers and the agricultural profiteers. The Republicans are the ones that tilled this issue up only to dig up trouble. Typical to fashion, now they will look to see how it personally impacts them for action – not the state’s interest. The republicans have exposed themselves to their masters – the rich and have attached middle class working folks. Its time for change in Florida in every branch of government…get rid of the gloom and doom of the republican party.

  4. Ryan says:

    This is a real problem and I applaud Alexander for taking it on and being honest. He seems like one the few who doesn’t have his head in the sand

  5. bmull says:

    @RYAN: What is the problem? Why doesn’t he use the existing H-2A visa program?

  6. Pingback: Things fall apart: FL tea party feeling ignored on immigration : The Reid Report

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