Latest census numbers fuel immigration debate in Florida

One in five Floridians is Hispanic

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - One in five Floridians is Hispanic according to the 2010 census statistics released this week.

The figure may not bode well for immigration reform legislation; opponents believe would encourage racial profiling. Some Hispanic Republicans say they’ll vote Democrat if the GOP led legislature passes the immigration reform bill.

250 Latinos, some legal, some not, were at the state capitol Thursday, angry over an Arizona inspired immigration measure they say would encourage racial profiling.

The immigration debate rages as the latest census numbers show the Hispanic population soaring. Now 22 percent of Floridians are Hispanic; up from 16 percent after the last census. And as Hispanics register to vote, few are registering as Republicans.

With one in three Hispanics registering as an independent their vote is up for grabs, and they are using their support or opposition as leverage in the immigration debate.

Opponents say lawmakers better take heed.“The decisions they are making now are going to have serious ramifications for the future of the state and the future of their politics,” said Subash Patel, an organizer with We are Florida a group organized against the bill.

Filipe Matos, who delivered petitions to the Senate President running for Congress, sees the growing numbers of Hispanics as a political bargaining chip.

“If he doesn’t stand with the Latino community, we will not stand with him in 2012,” said Filipe.

But not all Florida Hispanics side with Filipe. The immigration reform bill is being sponsored by Senator Anitere Flores a Cuban-American… and many in the Hispanic caucus have her back.

Republicans lost Hispanic voters between 2008 and 2010 while 96-thousand Hispanics registered Democrat.

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