Florida Anti-Sanctuary Bills Pass Last Committees, Await Floor Votes
By David Jaroslav | April 18, 2019
Florida’s lawmakers have passed another major milestone towards fulfilling Governor Ron DeSantis’s pledge to end dangerous sanctuary policies in the Sunshine State. This week, both the House and Senate anti-sanctuary bills were voted out of their last committees. Now those bills urgently need to be heard on the floors of both chambers.
Although they have some differences, both Senate Bill (SB) 168, sponsored by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), and House Bill (HB) 527 by Representative Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach), would:
- Define and ban sanctuary policies, both by local governments and state agencies such as public universities;
- Require local governments and state agencies to honor immigration detainers;
- Require each county to enter into an agreement with the federal government in order to seek reimbursement of the costs of honoring detainers, i.e., holding illegal aliens in their jails; and
- Authorize the Florida Attorney General to sue to enforce the bill’s terms.
HB 527 was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on April 16 and passed on a party-line vote of 12-6. SB 168 was heard before the Senate Rules Committee on April 17 and passed 9-8. Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) joined all the Rules Committee Democrats in voting against the bill.
At both committee meetings, Jacksonville Angel Parents Kiyan and Bobby Michael spoke of how their 21-year-old son Brandon was tragically killed by an illegal alien who had already previously been deported. They said, “[t]his is what permanent separation is, not because we chose to try and take (our child) to another country and we knew that that was breaking the law[,]” and added, “[w]e are not against immigration, because we all came from somewhere … What we are against is those that continuously, on purpose, break our laws without any care of how it affects the next person.”
The bills’ opponents—including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Florida Immigrant Coalition (FIC)—unsurprisingly attempted to smear the bills as “racist” and “unconstitutional.” They also repeatedly claimed “there are no sanctuary cities in Florida,” even though FAIR (in its May 2018 report) identified 15 cities and counties in the state with sanctuary policies of one sort or another, and Orlando became the 16th when the City Council passed a resolution in July.
But Sen. Gruters stressed that “at the end of the day, this bill is about respecting the rule of law. It’s about cooperating with the federal government and it’s about public safety. This bill only deals with criminals that are going through the process or in the judicial system right now. This is about keeping all Floridians safe.” To which Rep. Byrd added, “This is not anti-immigrant. This is about not putting either legal or illegal immigrants over American citizens. We are applying the same rules that we apply to U.S. citizens … to anyone else. It is about public safety.”
The bills now face their next deadline to be heard on Second Reading on the House and Senate floors by April 26. If they pass that hurdle, they must each get a vote on final passage before the legislature adjourns on May 3.