A state senator’s comments ignited a fierce rebuke from his colleagues Thursday when he said that voters should be screened for citizenship before legislators draw a congressional district to favor Hispanics.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, rekindled the divisive debate over illegal immigration when he told the Senate committee reviewing a series of congressional redistricting plans that “before we design a district anywhere in the state of Florida for Hispanic voters, we need to ascertain that they are citizens of the United States. “We all know there are many Hispanic-speaking people in Florida that are not legal,’’ he said. “And I just don’t think it’s right that we try to draw a district that encompasses people that really have no business voting anyhow,” he said.
“He is calling on a witch hunt before a Hispanic district can be realistically considered,’’ said Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa.
Florida will receive two additional congressional seats because of its population growth in the last 10 years that, according the U.S. Census data, was largely fueled by the surge in the state’s Hispanic population. Hays made the comments in response to a proposal being considered by the Senate Reapportionment Committee that would create a Hispanic-majority district in Central Florida, where the Puerto Rican population has exploded.
Cruz pointed out that Puerto Ricans are American citizens at birth.