The Florida House passed a high-profile bill on April 24 that would require law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, in a bid to ban so-called sanctuary city policies that shield illegal aliens, pushing the state to the forefront of the nation’s immigration debate.
The Republican-led chamber voted 69–47, largely along party lines, to send the measure to the Senate, where a similar bill is pending. The move marks the latest effort by the GOP to enforce immigration laws.
During his campaign, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signaled that he would sign any legislation that banned sanctuary cities.
Currently, Florida isn’t known to have formal “sanctuary cities” like those in other states, aside from one area—Alachua County. Sanctuary cities are locales that have enacted measures to prevent local officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Eight states and hundreds of cities across the United States are recognized as sanctuaries for illegal aliens.
The bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Cord Byrd, would ban such policies and require local authorities to honor detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that can lead to a person’s deportation.
The sheriff’s office in Alachua County currently releases illegal immigrant inmates, rather than holding them until federal immigration enforcement agents arrive to consider their case. If the bill is enacted into law, the sheriff’s office will comply, spokesman Art Forgey said.
Byrd and other Republicans cast the bill as a law-and-order measure that is aimed at generating respect for U.S. immigration laws.
“We welcome you. But we ask one simple thing: we ask that you follow our laws and our rules,” Byrd said.
The bill prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to warn illegal immigrants against traveling to Florida because of detention risks. Democrats failed in attempts to weaken the bill or create exceptions.
Republicans, meanwhile, rejected criticisms that the bill is “anti-immigrant.”
“This bill is not about removing illegals from the state of Florida. This bill is about protecting the citizens in the state of Florida,” said Rep. Michael Caruso.
In addition to mandating cooperation with federal authorities, the bill would permit local officials who allow sanctuary city policies to be suspended or removed from office, and permit fines up to $5,000 a day for violations.
Similar legislation passed the House last year, but the Senate version didn’t get a floor vote. This year, the measure appears to have enough momentum for final passage in both chambers.
Immigration a Centerpiece
Weeks ago, President Donald Trump said he’s considering a plan to transport aliens who are apprehended after illegally crossing the southwest border exclusively to sanctuary cities.
“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”
The Trump administration is also proposing a new rule that seeks to prevent illegal immigrants from being granted public housing financial assistance. The move would ensure that U.S. citizens are first in line to review housing subsidies.
An April 25 Monmouth University poll found that 46 percent of Americans support Trump’s plan to send illegal aliens to sanctuary cities, while 43 percent opposed the plan. Of the remaining 11 percent, 4 percent said it depends on the circumstances and 7 percent were undecided.
Trump’s illegal immigration proposals come after U.S. officials said they arrested or denied entry to more than 103,000 people along the border with Mexico in March, more than twice as many as the same period in 2018.
Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov and The Associated Press contributed to this report.