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FL House Adopts DeSantis-Sanctioned 'Sanctuary City' Bill

FL state flag with  copy: no sanctuary cities here, but just in case

TALLAHASSEE – There are no “sanctuary cities” in Florida but, just in case one should materialize, they are now one step closer to being banned in the Sunshine State.

The Florida House Wednesday passed a proposed bill that would ban “sanctuary jurisdictions” and mandate that local law enforcement agencies cooperate with Immigration & Customs Enforcement [ICE] authorities.

As with its contested passage through the committee process, House Bill 527, sponsored by Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, was debated for several hours on the House floor during Tuesday’s second reading and Wednesday’s third reading, which concluded with its adoption in a mostly partisan 69-47 vote.

A session priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis, HB 527 requires local jails and prisons to hold an undocumented immigrant charged or convicted of a crime for 48 hours past their release dates to give ICE agents time to pick them up for deportation.

Under HB 527, local government employees or elected officials who implement or endorse “sanctuary-city policies” or declare themselves “sanctuary jurisdictions” may be suspended, removed from office and fined up to $5,000 a day for violations.

A similar “sanctuary city” bill was adopted by the House last year but its Senate companion never made it to the upper chamber’s floor.

This year, a “sanctuary city” bill – Senate Bill 168, sponsored by State GOP Chairman Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota – has made it through committee reviews and is expected to pass in a chamber vote.

The most significant variation between the House and Senate “sanctuary city” bills is SB 168 does not include the punitive provisions against individual local government employees or elected officials that HB 527 does.

The proposals have drawn protests at the capitol and around the state and nationwide rebuke from Democrats, immigrant advocacy groups and the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], which cited the bills in issuing an April “advisory” warning that “immigrants and people of color to be cautious while traveling in Florida.”

"Today is a sad day for Florida,” Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Luisana Pérez said in a statement following HB 527’s adoption.

“House Republicans today sold out their communities to Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis by passing this xenophobic and discriminatory bill,” Pérez continued. “It's abhorrent that Republican members who represent immigrant communities are now turning their backs on their constituents and jeopardizing their safety.”

Discussion on the floor Wednesday was heated, but basic reiterations of arguments hashed and rehashed during HB 527’s committee passage.

“Immigrants do not come here to terrorize or to make this place a horrible place,” said Rep. Anika Omphroy, D-Lauderdale Lakes, her family descended from Haitian and Jamaican immigrants. “They come here because this is the land of opportunity.”

Democrats argued the bill would lead to more deportations following detention for traffic infractions and minor crimes, and raised questions about how refugees fleeing from Venezuela would fare in Florida if the bill is adopted.

HB 527 faced 10 amendment challenges on the floor Wednesday with four failing and six being withdrawn before proceedings began.

Byrd and other Republicans said HB 527 is not an anti-immigrant measure, but one that merely reinforces law-and-order adherence to U.S. immigration laws.

“We welcome you,” Byrd said. "But we ask one simple thing: follow our laws and our rules.”

“This bill is not about removing illegals from the state of Florida. This bill is about protecting the citizens in the state of Florida,” said Rep. Michael Caruso, R-Boca Raton.

This piece appeared in the Watchdog.org and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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