Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation, which emerged as one of the most contentious bills of the 2019 Legislature. It regularly drew representatives of immigrant groups to crowded committee hearings, along with mostly Central American laborers and families working in the agriculture and service industries who opposed the bill.
The lawsuit comes as President Donald Trump has brought immigration back into the forefront, with House Democrats now calling for a resolution condemning him for tweeting that four minority, women members of Congress critical of him should “go back” to other countries.
A sponsor of the Florida legislation was Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who doubles as the state’s Republican Party chairman. DeSantis, endorsed by Trump, had campaigned last year on a pledge to strengthen Florida’s stand on immigration.
In signing the measure last month, DeSantis said the bill is “about public safety, not about politics.”
Gruters also praised the action as ensuring that “we do not treat non-citizens better than Americans.”
Organizations involved in the lawsuit condemned the measure as unnecessary and divisive. They said that local law enforcement should not have to do the job of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
“Entangling ICE and local law enforcement leads to racial profiling, civil rights violations, isolation of immigrant communities, and unjust deportations,” said Paul Chavez, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, among those representing plaintiffs in the case.
Among those filing suit are the Farmworker Association of Florida, the state’s Immigrant Coalition, Americans for Immigrant Justice, the Guatamalan-Mayan Center, Inc., South Miami, and the Family Action Network Movement.
“Our police are responsible for maintaining public safety,” said South Miami Mayor Philip K. Stoddard. “And as soon as they are seen as somebody who might turn you in if you call for assistance, they are no longer trusted.”
The new law banned so-called sanctuary cities, none of which have lately existed in Florida, where local government authorities refused to fully cooperate with ICE agents.
The measure requires local law enforcement to comply with detainer requests from ICE and hold immigrants living illegally in the U.S. if they are arrested for other crimes — a demand that critics see as forcing local governments to assume a role that belongs to federal officials.
Gruters’ predecessor as Florida Republican chair, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill, said that DeSantis and lawmakers were responding to voter demands for action on immigration. He said that with Congress unable to decide on comprehensive legislation, states have been forced to step up.
Ingoglia said immigration was a central issue in the 2016 and 2018 elections, and will be again next year — and that Trump has simply seized on voter anger.
Read via The St. Augustine Record here.