By Ana Ceballos, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — After a long and fiery debate about how the state should deal with illegal immigration, the Florida House on Wednesday passed legislation that seeks to crack down on local governments that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The measure, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, would ban so-called sanctuary city policies in the state and punish any local officials who limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. That would include local governments that restrict law-enforcement agencies from participating in a federal program that deputizes local officers to perform the duties of federal immigration agents.
If they are found to be in violation of the bill, local officials could be removed from office, and local governments could be fined up to $5,000 for each day they have sanctuary-city policies.
House sponsor Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, argued that the bill (HB 527) is meant to require local government to follow federal immigration laws and ensure Florida residents are safe. His Republicans colleagues echoed that sentiment.
“The state should welcome immigrants, but it should be legal immigrants,” said Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Lithia. “We are not saying that illegal immigrants are bad people … but they need to follow the law.”
But Democrats criticized the bill in often-emotional testimony that sometimes included accounts about how their families immigrated to the United States.
“This bill is not who we are as Floridians,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said.
In part, Democrats said the bill would not just target undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes but also minor crimes, like driving without a license.
Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-North Miami, said the bill would hurt the trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities, which she said would “make all of Florida’s families unsafe.”
Rep. John Cortes, a Kissimmee Democrat who worked as a corrections officer, said he supports locking up immigrants who commit crimes but that non-criminals also likely would be targeted. He added that there would be a cost to taxpayers for holding immigrants on federal immigration detainers.
Despite the pushback, the bill passed the House in a 69-47 vote along almost-straight party lines. Republicans Vance Aloupis of Miami and Rene Plasencia of Orlando joined Democrats in voting against the bill.
The House has passed similar bills the past three years, but the Senate has not gone along. A Senate version (SB 168), however, is scheduled to be heard Thursday on the Senate floor.
Sen. Joe Gruters, who also serves as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, has made the issue his top priority in the Senate.
If a sanctuary-cities bill ultimately passes, the Republican-dominated Legislature would hand DeSantis a major win during his first year in office.
During his campaign last year, DeSantis vowed to sign legislation cracking down on sanctuary cities. His tough stance on illegal immigration mirrored the arguments embraced by President Donald Trump, who endorsed DeSantis for governor.
Also, I don’t consider driving a 4,000lb hunk of metal and glass around without an operator license, and probably no insurance, a “minor crime.”
“In part, Democrats said the bill would not just target undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes but also minor crimes, like driving without a license.”
This Bill should target undocumented immigrants who have committed ANY crime, including being in this country illegally.
Illegals are just that: ILLEGAL. Why would a person walk all the way from Guatemala or El Salvador to the American border, and then say that “it’s too much trouble” to have to go through the American citizenship process?
What is it about the legal citizenship process that’s so egregious, so horrible, and so difficult that the ILLEGALS can’t possible abide by it?
(By the way, 63% of illegals are on various degrees of government assistance – all paid for by American taxpayer citizens.)
That’s what the Dem-Socialists are trying to tell us – the legal citizenship process is so horrible that people who trekked on foot half a continent to get here can’t possibly face it. I guess all the generations of immigrants who came here in the past and went through the process to become LEGAL American citizens were either gullible fools or were made of stronger stuff.