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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 July 2006, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
US city votes down immigrant bill
Protesters both in favour and against the ordinance in Avon Park, Florida
Illegal immigration is a hot issue in many US towns
A city council in central Florida has rejected a by-law that would have been among the strictest local legislation in the US against illegal immigrants.

Members of the Avon Park council voted 3-2 against the by-law, or ordinance, after a heated five-hour debate.

The law would have made English the official language and penalised people doing business with illegal immigrants.

A Pennsylvania council passed a similar law this month while other US towns and cities are considering such measures.

The council chamber in Avon Park was packed to capacity as people turned up to argue both for and against the controversial ordinance.

Those against included citrus growers and farmers who argued the measures would hurt the local economy, which is heavily dependent on migrant workers.

"The bottom line is we hire them because Americans don't want to milk cows," Joe Wright, a dairy farmer, told the meeting, the New York Times reported.

Competition

But those in favour of the by-law said that illegal immigrants are just that - illegal.

Some black residents have also voiced concern that they are competing with illegal immigrants for jobs and housing.

"This illegal practice will take away jobs from our high school kids looking for employment," the New York Times quoted resident Willie Jenkins as saying.

The ordinance was proposed by Avon Park Mayor Tom Macklin, who said he was frustrated at the federal government's failure to tackle illegal immigration.

The proposal said illegal immigration was overburdening local services in the town of 9,000, contributing to a rising crime rate and affecting the overall quality of life.

The Illegal Immigration Relief Act would have:

  • Fined landlords $1,000 for every tenant found to be an illegal immigrant

  • Denied city permits, contracts and grants to businesses that employed illegal immigrants

  • Required city documents to be in English only.

Hazleton in Pennsylvania passed a similar ordinance on 13 July.

Civil rights and Latino groups are planning legal challenges to the legislation.


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