Florida’s new so-called “sanctuary cities” law, which prohibits local governments from enacting sanctuary policies and requires local law enforcement to help ICE detain immigrants without warrants, is being challenged as unconstitutional.
A coalition of immigrant rights groups, including Florida Immigrant Coalition, Farmworker Association of Florida, WeCount!, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Hope Community Center, QLatinx, and the City of Miami filed the suit in federal court in Miami this morning. The injunction request is the first lawsuit to target the controversial law.
Rather than make Florida communities more secure, the lawsuit said, the law will lead to “the erosion of trust in law enforcement, racial profiling, and the violation of the constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of Floridians.”
The lawsuit also contends that hate groups drafted the original version of SB 168 and recruited state lawmakers "to turn their anti-immigrant agenda into state law."
Christopher Cuevas, executive director of the the Central Florida-based QLatinx, an organization that focuses on the rights of LGBTQ+ immigrants, said in a news release that “we are taking a stand to unapologetically defend the rights and dignity of our immigrant community and reject the practice of terrorizing families ….”
He added that ICE “seeks to stoke fear, criminalize immigrant communities, and disrupt the moral fabric of peace in our home.”
The heavily debated law was approved during the 2019 legislative session along party lines. Democrats and immigration advocates argued that it defined “sanctuary cities” in a state where no city has actually adopted a “sanctuary” policy. Several local governments and law enforcement agencies have taken a stance against carrying out ICE requests to detain immigrants on its behalf.
Opponents also argued the law would lead to racial profiling, breaking up families, leading to deportations over traffic infractions and other minor offenses, and discouraging people from reporting domestic abuse, rape and other crimes they witness.
After having the lawsuit reviewed by its legal team, the governor's office released a statement that DeSantis looked forward to vigorously defending the law in court.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on June 14, and it went into effect July 1.
"Sanctuary cities basically create law-free zones where people can come to our state illegally and our country illegally, commit criminal offenses and then just walk right out the door and continue to do it," DeSantis said. "In Florida, that will not happen."
DeSantis ran on a tough immigration enforcement platform that echoed Trump Administration policies. In one TV ad, DeSantis was shown helping one of his children build a wall.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop implementation of the law, the news release said. It says the law “impermissibly authorizes and requires state and local law enforcement to perform the functions of federal immigration agents.”
The suit further states that the law “encroaches into an area of exclusive federal authority and will interfere and conflict with the comprehensive federal immigration system enacted by Congress in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
It also targets immigrants and people of color “who will be subject to arrest for deportation by state and local police, under circumstances not permitted by the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), even when the cities, and counties, and local law enforcement object,” the suit said.
Paul Chavez, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, said, “Entangling ICE and local enforcement leads to racial profiling, civil rights violations, isolation of immigrant communities, and unjust deportations.”
Read via Tallahassee Democrat here.