Florida Senate’s Attempt to Expand Anti-Immigration Law

February 3, 2022 News & Announcements

As November slowly approaches for the next round of elections, Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed another law anti-immigration law. The proposed bill is meant to require that Florida communities help enforce federal immigration laws. SB 1808 is a build off of Joe Gruters’ SB 168 bill that was stalled back in 2019.

Although Gruters’ bill did not make it very far, DeSantis is working towards trying to get his version of the bill passed. It is not without criticism, however. Many critics claim that this bill is unconstitutional and will end up discriminating against people based on their race and ethnicity.

As the bill starts to take shape, it is important to go over its characteristics, and what the potential outcomes would look like if it were to pass into law.

SB 1808 and its Purpose

SB 1808 is titled “Immigration Enforcement,” and it is revising the definition of “sanctuary policy” to include specific laws, policies, practices, procedures, or customs that limit or prohibit a law enforcement agency from providing specified immigration information to a state entity.

SB 1808’s expansion on the term “sanctuary cities” would limit transportation services such as airlines, bus companies, and other organizations from aiding the federal government who attempt to relocate undocumented immigrants into Florida.

Additionally, the bill would attempt to stop the transport of illegal immigrants into the state of Florida by prohibiting transportation companies from doing business with the Florida government. The unfounded fear propelling this bill further and further into the legislative process is that ‘illegal aliens’ are coming into Florida in the dead of night.

Sen. Aaron Bean spoke at the Florida Legislature’s Special Session about the bill, claiming, “[w]e don’t know who these people are, and the crimes which they are committing [are] very real…We think it’s time to say ‘no’ to the federal government running this human smuggling operation. Once we say ‘no’, there should be a better way. We need enforcement at the border.”

Bean gave an example for the proposed bill: if a bus company did work for relocating undocumented immigrants to Florida, then they would lose their contracts for other reasons for transportation, for instance, driving a Florida high school or college sports team.

It should be noted that many of these undocumented immigrants are unaccompanied minors. They have been reunited with family or have gained assistance from social service agents.

Responses – Creating a False Narrative?

The main response critics have provided about the bill is that it is creating a false narrative. The Florida sanctuary cities law was blocked for being considered unconstitutional by a federal judge, and this current bill appears to build off that. The original sanctuary cities law (SB 168) was claimed to have been driven by an ‘immigrant threat narrative’ from DeSantis. U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom considered the law to be a violation of constitutionally guaranteed equal protection rights.

The Florida legislature assured in 2019 that no government defied federal efforts to take a harsher stance on illegal immigration. However, Judge Bloom fears that if the sanctuary cities law—or something similar—were to pass, it would lead to further discriminatory law enforcement tactics, encouraging officers to judge people based on race and ethnicity in regard to their citizenship status.

In addition, there were several statements read in opposition to the bill. The statements were provided by Cuban Americans who had lived in Florida for an extended amount of time, some for several decades. These Americans were brought over with Operation Pedro Pan from the 1960s, which was an organized migration of over 14,000 Cuban minors when there was fear that Fidel Castro was planning to terminate parental rights.

Now, years later, these Cuban Americans have to speak up for their freedom and right to remain in the state of Florida yet again.

DeSantis’ Agenda

This is not DeSantis’ first attempt at implementing anti-immigration laws. When he campaigned four years ago as an anti-immigrant candidate, there was a video of him and his young daughter using building blocks, in which he famously was recorded encouraging her to, “build the wall.”

DeSantis has also made it clear that he is unhappy with the Biden administration due to their current immigration measures. He has declared a so-called war against what’s being referred to as the “Biden border crisis.” DeSantis is suing for $8 million in what he believes should go into state funding for creating contracts with private companies to remove undocumented immigrants from Florida.

In addition to his stance on immigration, DeSantis sent 250 law enforcement officers from Florida to the Mexican border to assist the Texas police in keeping a tight eye on potential migrants. A Florida report showed over 9,000 contacts with migrants at the border.

DeSantis is running to be re-elected as Governor in the upcoming November election. There are also rumors of his hopes to run as the Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election.

Expectations of Current Measures

Part of the reason that there is belief that more effort is being placed into the Florida law is the expectation of Bloom’s injuction to overturn the 11th District Court of Appeals. However, critics believe that the bill will be against deemed unconstitutional.

Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Anne Janet Hernandez criticized DeSantis’ proposal, stating that it is another attempt to use children to further his agenda. In a statement on the bill itself Hernandez said, “[t]his legislation would harm local governments by dictating limits on municipal contracts, force law enforcement agencies to waste already stretched taxpayer fund on federal immigration programs, reduce travel into the state of Florida and prevent the reunification of immigrant children with their families.”

As most critics believe the bill will follow the same path as SB 168, we will continue to wait and see how SB 1808 progresses, if at all.

 This article was written by Karissa Key

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