Federal Judge Strikes Down Portions of Florida Law Banning ‘Sanctuary Cities’

Claims bill was racially motivated because of groups involved in the process
By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
September 23, 2021 Updated: September 23, 2021

A Florida law prohibiting the establishment of so-called sanctuary cities, or municipalities trying to shield illegal immigrants from arrest, violates federal law, a federal judge ruled this week.

Florida Senate Bill 168 bars sanctuary policies, or policies that prohibit or impede law enforcement from complying with federal immigration law or that block law enforcement agencies from communicating or cooperating with federal immigration agencies.

The Florida Legislature passed the legislation in 2019 and Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed it into law.

But some of the groups that supported and were involved with crafting the law, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), have “been described as anti-immigrant hate groups,” U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom, an Obama nominee, wrote in her 110-page ruling.

“This involvement strongly suggests that the Legislature enacted SB 168 to promote and ratify the racist views of these advocacy groups.”

As part of the ruling, Bloom highlighted a press conference held by state Sen. Joe Gruters and state Rep. Cord Byrd with Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN) that highlighted victims of illegal immigrant criminals, including a couple who spoke about how their son was killed by an illegal alien who had been deported twice before reentering the United States.

“We are very, very proud to be here today with these groups of people and to stand with our Angel families—to end the kind of anarchy that does exist with the criminal activity of some members of the illegal alien population,” Karyn Morton, of FLIMEN, said at the time.

“By referring to immigrants as illegals, criminals, murderers, and victimizers, the press conference was clearly intended to cast immigrants in a demeaning and threatening light, thus demonstrating the speakers’ racial animus toward the immigrant population,” Bloom said.

Gruter’s description of illegal immigrants as “illegals” also revealed a racial animus, the judge claimed.

That contributed to the finding that the passage of the bill was racially motivated, she added. She struck down some portions, including parts aimed to ban sanctuary cities.

The Community Justice Center, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the ruling was “a victory for immigrants across the state of Florida.”

“This law was clearly developed to encourage racial profiling, civil rights violations, isolation of immigrant communities, and unjust deportations. It did more harm for the causes of public safety than good. This should send a clear message to Gov. DeSantis and all those proponents of this racist law that they will not go unchallenged,” the center stated.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the University of Miami School of Law’s Immigration Clinic joined with the center in filing the lawsuit.

Dan Stein, FAIR’s president, told The Epoch Times that the ruling is an example of judges legislating from the bench.

“This is a mockery of justice; this is a complete insult to the democratic process and the freedom of Americans to petition the legislature,” he said.

He said Bloom repeatedly put forth “unsubstantiated derogatory pronouncements” in “an attempt to usurp the legislature’s prerogative to decide what the laws state are.”

FLIMEN and two legislators singled out in the ruling, Gruters and Byrd, both Republicans, didn’t immediately respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.

The state plans to appeal the ruling; Stein and a spokesperson for DeSantis both predicted the appeal will be successful.

“Yet again, a federal trial court judge partially enjoins a plainly constitutional state statute,” Taryn Fenske, the governor’s spokesperson, said in a statement to news outlets. “We disagree with the judge’s ruling and expect to win on appeal.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.