A bill banning sanctuary cities in Florida was signed into law Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had made such a ban one of his priorities in his first year as governor. The bill signing was held in the county commission chambers in Okaloosa County, a Republican stronghold located in the Panhandle.
“Earlier this year, I made a promise that we would ban sanctuary cities in Florida and today we are delivering on that promise,” said DeSantis. “I am proud to sign the bill presented to me by the Florida Legislature to uphold the rule of law and ensure that no city or county jurisdiction can get in the way of Florida’s cooperation with our federal partners to enforce immigration law. This is about public safety, not about politics. We must do everything within our power, and use all the tools available to us, to ensure that our communities are safe.”
The law bans so-called sanctuary cities in Florida designed to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. There are currently no such cities or other local governments in Florida.
It would also require police agencies to work with federal immigration officials by forcing local law enforcement to honor federal immigration requests for an “immigration detainer.” A detainer is a request that another law enforcement agency detain a person based on probable cause to believe that the person is a “removable alien” under federal immigration law. The bill would essentially make the “request” a requirement in Florida for local law enforcement.
The law gives power to the governor to remove local officials from office when they violate the ban. It also gives the attorney general the power to bring civil actions against local governments.
“Florida has once again stepped up when Washington D.C. has failed by passing the strongest ban of sanctuary cities in the country,”said Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, the Senate sponsor of the bill. “This law ensures we do not treat non-citizens better than Americans and it will help ensure Floridians are not being victimized by illegal aliens. This legislation will ensure that our law enforcement agencies are able to cooperate with federal authorities and will get illegal criminals aliens off our streets.”
Proposals banning sanctuary cities had failed to pass in previous sessions by the Republican-controlled Legislature over concerns about the possible impact among hispanic voters. But this year, with a governor who firmly believed Florida needed such a law, state lawmakers decided now was the time to adopt such a measure.
During debate, Sen. David Simmons, R-Longwood, argued that illegal immigration and the 800,000 undocumented immigrants reported to be in the state, pose a serious threat to Florida.
“We have a problem, senators,” Simmons said to his Senate colleagues. “That problem is we have an unsustainable situation where there are individuals who are undocumented in this state and in this nation — 800,000 in this state — that we cannot ignore.
“The fact that there has not been a solution to this unsustainable problem does not mean we ignore the law,” Simmons went on to say.
Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to use immigration to capture political headlines.
“With the stroke of his pen today, Governor Ron DeSantis joined many of his fellow Republicans in officially turning their backs on desperate immigrant men, women and – most of them Hispanic – who have sought refuge in Florida,” said Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, in response to Friday’s bill signing. “This legislation was never about the rule of law, or heading off a criminal invasion, or any other of a myriad of excuses proffered to justify its passage. This legislation and its signing is about politics in its worst form by scapegoating immigrants.
Nine states — Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas — have passed laws requiring law enforcement to cooperate with Immigration (ICE).
“We are a stronger state when we protect our residents, foster safe communities and respect the work of law enforcement at every level,” DeSantis said in a statement released last month after the bill’s passage.