Florida has become the latest state to propose controversial new laws, opposed by Barack Obama, to tackle illegal immigrants. The state’s Republican Attorney General wants to introduce new legislation to compel police officers arresting a suspect to establish their immigration status. Illegal immigrants would also face longer prison sentences.

The new laws go further than the ones Arizona attempted to introduce earlier this month. Arizona has been blocked from introducing key parts of its new laws by a federal court.

However, Bill McCollum, who is running to become Florida’s governor in the forthcoming elections, has proposed the new legislation despite the Arizona ruling. More than 20 other states are thought to be considering similar laws.

Mr McCollum described the proposed new laws as a “huge step for public safety”.

“This legislation will provide new enforcement tools for protecting our citizens and will help our state fight the ongoing problems created by illegal immigration,” Mr McCollum said.

He added: “This law is fairly balanced to protect the rights of those who are here legally and illegally.”

The legislation requires police making an arrest to determine whether the person is in the country legally, something they can now do on a voluntary basis but which is normally carried out by the immigration authorities. Under the proposed law, police can arrest people on a “reasonable suspicion” that they are illegal immigrants.

Companies would also be forced to use an electronic system to check that workers they are hiring are in the country legally.

There are thought to be more than ten million illegal immigrants living in America and the issue is expected to be a key factor in the forthcoming midterm elections.