Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is speaking out against the sanctuary cities ban legislation that passed the House on Wednesday and awaits action in the Senate. Fried says the bill sends a harmful message to immigrants, who she says make up a key segment of the agricultural workforce in Florida.
“Immigrants are not a threat to this country’s safety or economy,” Fried said in an email message to supporters. “That divisive rhetoric is spin pushed by the President. SB 168 goes against every fundamental American value. It would create lasting damage to businesses and industries in this state and make law enforcement more difficult and demanding.”
The bill bans the creation of sanctuary cities to protect illegal immigrants. There are currently no such cities in Florida.
But, the measure would prevent local governments from ignoring requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for local jails to hold suspected undocumented immigrants until federal authorities take them into custody.
The requests are known as detainers. The House version of the bill requires that local agencies use their “best efforts to support federal immigration law.” If they fail to do so, local entities would face a fine of up to $5,000 per day for violating the law.
Fried, the only Democrat to hold a statewide seat in Florida, says immigrants are an “integral and necessary part of Florida’s past, present, and future.”
“Twenty percent of Floridians are immigrants who pay $17 billion in federal and $6 billion in state taxes annually,” Fried said in her email. “Did you know that 54% of Florida’s immigrants work in farming, fishing, or forestry, making up nearly half of the workforce in those industries?”
Supporters of the ban say the bill is more about public safety than it is about immigration. They argue the ban would turn over illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes to federal authorities for deportation.
“This bill is not about removing illegals from the state of Florida,” said Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach. “This bill is about protecting the citizens of the state of Florida. This bill is about protecting even illegals in the state of Florida.”
The sanctuary cities bill has died in the Senate in past years when that chamber failed to take action on the measure. But, this year, that could change. The ban was a key part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign last fall and he called for its passage during his inaugural speech.
“I cannot sit by silently as injustice is being legalized. It is my job, as Commissioner of Agriculture and an elected official, to defend the rights of those who keep our agriculture and economy thriving and everyone else who calls Florida home,” Fried goes on to say in her message.
“Thank you for standing with me as I continue to fight for the rights of ALL Floridians,” she concluded.
The Senate is expected to consider its sanctuary cities ban legislation by the end of the week, but there are differences between the two versions that will have to be reconciled. The House version includes the fines for those who violate the ban, the Senate version doe not.