Sanctuary cities would be banned in Florida under a measure that was taken up by the state House of Representatives on second reading Thursday afternoon and now awaits a final vote on Friday.  

Sanctuary cities are local communities that limit their cooperation with the national government in enforcing federal law and offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants. The House bill would apply to all levels of government in the state.

Currently, there are no sanctuary cities in Florida.

“The rationale behind this is we want to discourage illegal immigration and one way to do that is to be robust in your enforcement when they get here,” said Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yahala, the House sponsor of the legislation. “Florida, having about 850,000 illegal immigrants in the state, has not been in all cases cooperating with the federal immigration enforcement authorities.”

Critics argue the bill is an unfunded mandate that would further strain the resources of local law enforcement.

“Our jails are filling up right now,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Winter Park

“This is requiring law enforcement to actually hold individuals in their jails and in their prisons for up to 48 hours .. who, by the way, quite frankly we still don’t have probable cause to prove that they are unlawfully in this country,” Smith added.

The bill is a key priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. Some have accused Corcoran, who is expected to announce his candidacy for governor after the session wraps up in March, of using the issue for political purposes.

Corcoran told House members on opening day of the session that he did not want to allow Florida to “become a sanctuary state like California.”

“This isn’t a political statement. This isn’t some academic exercise,” Corcoran told members Tuesday. “When politicians abandon the rule of law and abuse their power – when they pick and choose what laws to obey – there are dire, dire, consequences.”

The House passed an identical bill during last year’s session, but the Senate never took action. Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, is sponsoring the measure during this session. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary and Rules committees but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

The bill was introduced on the floor of the House Thursday afternoon. It is scheduled to be brought up for third reading on the House floor on Friday for a final vote.

 

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