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Lawmakers share personal stories before sending a contentious immigration bill to the governor

Florida Rep. Marie Paule Woodson speaks against an Immigration Enforcement bill during a legislative session at the Florida State Capitol, Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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AP
Florida Rep. Marie Paule Woodson speaks against an Immigration Enforcement bill during a legislative session at the Florida State Capitol, Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

A bill that targets transportation companies bringing alleged “ghost flights” of undocumented immigrants into the state is now heading for Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk.

The contentious measure is one of DeSantis’ top priorities.

As lawmakers debated the bill before passing it off the House floor, many told personal stories about their experience with immigration.

Rep. Marie Woodson (D-Hollywood) was born in Haiti and moved to Florida in 1981.

She said immigrants should be embraced because they "make up the tapestry of the United States."

"It's all of us. Whether your ancestor came from Europe with green eyes, or from Haiti, from Cuba, from Venezuela, from Mexico,” Woodson said.

Woodson said in a time when the state is facing dramatic worker shortages, she doesn’t understand the reason behind trying to keep people out.

“They are working. We have a shortage of workers. We are putting rules in place that are going to affect everyone of those people," Woodson said. "And we’re saying we have a shortage workers? "

Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) is a naturalized citizen who came to the United States from England. He had a different take.

“What we have happening today in the United States as it relates to people being dropped off in airplanes, on buses, in my humble opinion is nothing short of an invasion,”Barnaby said.

Barnaby said he came to the United States “the right way,” after waiting 11 years to obtain citizenship. He says there’s a process for immigrants to come the United States and he thinks it should be followed.

But Woodson pointed out the immigration process doesn’t work in the same way for everyone.

“We know there’s double standards when it comes to immigration. Not all of us get treated the same way. I don’t get treated the same way like other people and I’m a state legislator just like you,” Woodson said.

During the debate, Democrats pointed out many of the people immigrating to the United States now now are fleeing dangerous situations and don’t have time to wait. They said for them there is no right way to come to the United States. They’re trying to come any way they can.

The bill that’s now heading to DeSantis for consideration bars the state and local governments from doing business with transportation companies that knowingly bring undocumented immigrants into Florida. The measure expands the current sanctuary cities law, which was ruled unconstitutional. That ruling is now being appealed by the state.

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