Florida lawmakers move closer to adopting a ban on sanctuary cities

by | Apr 16, 2019

With less than three weeks remaining in this year’s legislative session, proposals to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” in Florida are still alive after being sidetracked for the past week or so.  

“There’s a lot of things that I think will still come through here that might appear stalled,” House Speaker José Oliva told reporters last week. “There’s time for that.”

The House version of the bill resurfaced in that chamber’s Judiciary Committee Tuesday afternoon. As expected, the legislation was reported favorably by the committee after some emotional debate.

Critics argued the proposed ban is designed to separate families.

“The natural consequence of this bill will be that more immigrants are deported. That more immigrant families are being torn apart. And, more immigrant parents are being torn away from their American-born children,” Kara Gross of ACLU of Florida told the committee.

But Kyan Michaels says her family was torn apart when an illegal alien drove into her son’s car. Her 21-year-old son Brandon was killed in the crash. She says the illegal immigrant who drove into her son’s vehicle had been deported twice.

“He never had a U.S. drivers license. He had no business driving behind the wheel,” Michaels told the committee holding a picture of her son. “This is what permanent separation looks like. We didn’t choose to sneak our child through a border, or a fence, or over a wall. This was forced on us.”

“I recognize the strong feelings on both sides,” said Rep. Joe Geller, D-Hollywood. “This country stands for something in the world and I hate the thought that we don’t stand for that anymore.”

The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, took exception with the views of his opponents.

“So when I hear this is an anti-immigrant bill, I do take that personally,” Byrd said. “That would be a surprise to my clients who I have represented in courts of law that are immigrants who have done things the right way because it is the rule of law.”

The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to hear its version of the sanctuary cities ban on Wednesday. They are the final committee stops before being heard on the floor of both chambers.

Both versions would prohibit sanctuary policies, while requiring state and local law enforcement to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The proposals would require local law enforcement to comply with a request from a federal law enforcement agency to detain a person who is suspected of being in this country illegally based on probable cause. The debate has centered around who should set immigration policy.  

The main difference between the chambers is technical in nature, with the two bodies differing on whether the ban should be tied to the budget.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a strong supporter of the sanctuary city ban, left no doubt where he stood on the issue in his inaugural address back in January.

“We will stop incentivizing illegal immigration, which is unfair to our legal immigrants, promotes lawlessness and reduces wages for our blue collar workers,” DeSantis said.

The issue of sanctuary cities drew national headlines last week when the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump was considering releasing immigrant detainees in “sanctuary cities” that exist across the U.S.



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