Sunshine State News: Sanctuary Cities Bill Could Mean Big Penalties For Florida’s Largest Counties

By  //  February 2, 2016

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Across the country, over 300 cities, counties and states serve as “safe houses” for undocumented immigrants. There, these places — called “sanctuary cities” — refuse to comply with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers which can get undocumented immigrants deported back to their home country. (Sunshine State News Image)

(SunshineStateNews.com) – Across the country, over 300 cities, counties and states serve as “safe houses” for undocumented immigrants. There, these places — called “sanctuary cities” — refuse to comply with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers which can get undocumented immigrants deported back to their home country.

Sanctuary cities forbid police officers from asking arrestees about their immigration status, making them renown for their friendlier policies towards undocumented immigrants. Some of the country’s largest cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Miami are all considered sanctuary cities.

Many immigrants flock to these cities to escape turmoil and poverty in their home countries, seeking new opportunities for themselves and their families in the U.S.

In Florida, seven counties are considered “sanctuary” areas for undocumented immigrants. The majority of the counties are situated in South Florida and in the Tampa Bay area.

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Those counties include Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando Counties on the west coast of Florida and Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties in South Florida. The Tampa Bay area is home to over 4 million Florida residents while over 6 million Floridians live in South Florida according to 2010 census number.

But if the Florida Legislature passes a new law through the Capitol this year, those sanctuary cities and counties would be no more.

HB 675, sponsored by Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, would punish sanctuary cities or counties which do not cooperate with federal immigration laws. Local law enforcement officers would be required to detain illegal immigrants for the federal government, a provision federal courts say violate the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Counties not cooperating with the laws could face civil actions from the attorney general. Those citations could cost counties a pretty penny — to the tune of up to $5,000 per day.

Last week, the bill was temporarily postponed, but on Tuesday, the House will finally put the measure to a vote.

Rep. Larry Metz says the legislation would hold local law enforcement agencies’ feet to the fire, requiring them to uphold federal law.

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Rep. Larry Metz

“This bill would basically say, as a matter of policy in the state of Florida, that we’re not going to tolerate state or local governmental agencies from refusing to cooperate with the enforcement of existing federal immigration law,” he explained last week.

Immigrant groups disagree with Metz and have traveled from all areas of the state to tell legislators in Tallahassee the bill isn’t what’s right for an important part of Florida’s population.

They say immigrants provide much-needed cultural and economic contributions to the Sunshine State, and believe the proposed policies represent a huge shift in attitudes towards immigrants in as little as two years.

“The Florida Legislature is both outrageous and hypocritical. In 2014, Republicans courted immigrant and Latino voters with pro-migrant legislation,” said Director of Digital Campaigns for America’s Voice Juan Escalante.

Escalante is referring to the 2014 legislative session, when state lawmakers prioritized passing legislation to give undocumented immigrants in-state tuition at Florida’s public colleges and universities.

“Now that they are back in office, it’s business as usual. Advocates, residents, and voters will not stand for anti-immigrant attacks in our great state,” Escalante continued.

Officials in Miami have told lawmakers they need to trust local law enforcement agencies to make decisions for what’s best for counties, and have contended lessening their interactions with the feds saves the counties millions of dollars each year.

“Since trust and cooperation from the community is so important in protecting public safety, these localities have enacted policies to foster this trust and prioritize their resources on local public safety needs – not enforcing unfunded and unconstitutional federal requests,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Florida staff attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal.

The bill will be heard on the House floor at 4 p.m. Tuesday.


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