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Florida Doesn’t Have Any Sanctuary Cities. The Governor Just Banned Them Anyway.

The bill also requires law enforcement to honor federal immigration detainer requests.

by Gaby Del Valle
Jun 14 2019, 7:51pm

Florida’s governor just banned so-called sanctuary cities in a state with an estimated 200,000 undocumented immigrants.

The bill, which was passed by the state Legislature in May, also requires local law enforcement agencies to “use their best efforts to support the enforcement of immigration law.”

“I said we were going to do certain things, and I’m happy to report that after having just one legislative session under our belt, we’re delivering on the promises we made to the people of Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis, who once released a campaign ad in which he told his toddler daughter to “build the wall,” told supporters after signing the bill.

Read more: Survivors of Japanese internment are horrified about detainment of migrant kids.

At the bill-signing event in Okaloosa, a conservative county in the Florida Panhandle, DeSantis said sanctuary cities were “law-free zones” where unauthorized immigrants are free to commit crimes “and then just walk out the door and continue to do it,” the Miami Herald reported.

Florida doesn’t actually have any of these jurisdictions, which pledge to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. But the bill also requires law enforcement agencies to honor federal immigration detainer requests. These requests essentially ask police departments and other agencies to hold certain people who have been charged with crimes for an additional period of time if immigration authorities have probable cause that they can be deported.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, who sponsored the bill and chairs the state’s Republican Party, told the News Service of Florida that only undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes have to worry. But the bill’s opponents, including Democratic politicians and immigrants’ rights groups, have said that even minor offenses, like driving without a license, can lead to deportation.

Read more: How the U.S. is pushing young Bangladeshi migrants into adult detention.

The bill also doesn’t just require law enforcement to honor detainer requests for immigrants who have been convicted of crimes, but also for anyone who has been charged. That means that even if an undocumented immigrant is later found not guilty of a crime, they could still be flagged for deportation.

Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, told the Miami Herald that DeSantis and other Republicans in the state were using “racial grievance to drive a wedge between Floridians.”

He added that it would undermine public safety “by requiring local law enforcement to spend less of their time and resources fighting crime in local communities and more on doing the work of federal immigration authorities.”

Cover: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Sanctuary City bill Friday, June 14, 2019 at the Okaloosa County, Fla., Commission Chambers in Shalimar, Fla. (Michael Snyder/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)