The large number of immigrants, both legal and illegal, pouring into the United States is a very real issue to Clearwater-area residents. Many of those moving into the country find their way to the Tampa Bay area, including the beaches and coastal parts of Pinellas County.
Local residents and business owners have been asking if anything can be done by the Florida Legislature about those who are living and working in the area illegally. The immediate answer is that this is a Federal issue, to be dealt with by the President, Congress, U. S. Customs, Border Patrol, Homeland Security, and Coast Guard. However, the question was put to those who work in Tallahassee.
Staff at State Rep. Tom Anderson's office contacted the state Attorney General's office about the subject and said questions were referred to the Office of Homeland Security. The number for Homeland Security is 800-375-5283.
Rep. Jim Frishe's staff suggested tighter laws or stricter enforcement in the green card system. No state legislation is pending in this area. Homeland Security says if such a program is set up, the department will write guidelines.
President Bush has proposed that Congress enact legislation providing for a guest worker system. As yet, this has not been passed by Congress. The President recently stated he does not favor amnesty for those who have broken the law to get here. About 12 million people may be in the U. S. illegally.
Of course, no one really knows how many people are in the country or Pinellas County illegally. The Clearwater Police Department does not spend time chasing down those who make be guilty of immigration violations and considers this the responsibility of the Unites States government. CPD spokesman Wayne Shelor said, "The Clearwater Police Department treats everyone the same. We only have an interest if someone has broken laws or may have done so. The Clearwater police do not enforce immigration laws. We answer calls in the same way whether a person is of one race or nationality or another. We want those who are from other places to know they can call us for help if they have been preyed upon."
In other Legislative news, Rep. Ed Hooper, whose district covers much of the Clearwater area, has sponsored HB 1585. This legislation ratifies uses of property granted to the city by the state. The bill concerns undeveloped submerged property.