Florida Anti-Sanctuary Law Overwhelmingly Upheld by Court, Now In Effect
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | October 2019
As of October 1, all law enforcement agencies in Florida have to use “best efforts” to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. That was the day the enforcement provisions of the Sunshine State’s new anti-sanctuary law, Senate Bill (SB) 168, took effect. And the day before, almost all of the new law survived a court challenge.
Open-borders groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) had joined with the City of South Miami to sue Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and Attorney General (AG) Ashley Moody (R) back in July, asking U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom to find the law unconstitutional and block the state from enforcing it. They claimed it would “inevitably cause constitutional violations and racial profiling[.]” But in her September 30 ruling, the Obama-appointed federal judge determined that almost all of the law was constitutional and allowed it to go into effect.
In brief, Judge Bloom held that:
- Requiring state and local law enforcement to honor immigration detainers is not preempted by federal law; rather, in the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, “Congress intended local cooperation … in a range of key enforcement functions.”
- Requiring honoring detainers does not make the Florida law “on its face” violate the 4th Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Whether complying with a particular detainer satisfies the 4th Amendment is instead a question to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
- The terms “best efforts” and “impede” in the Florida law are not unconstitutionally vague because they “give fair warning as to what is prohibited.”
The judge repeatedly relied on the 2018 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in City of El Cenizo v. Texas, holding that Texas’s anti-sanctuary law, SB 4, was constitutional.
The only part of the law that Bloom ruled Florida could not enforce was a requirement for state or local law enforcement to transport illegal aliens across state lines if that was required to get them into federal custody. She said that was exclusively the federal government’s job. That particular requirement, however, was never a major part of the bill and was barely if ever even mentioned in the debates over its passage.
Under the new law, Florida cities, counties, and state agencies like public universities that still continue to have any sanctuary policies will now face the possibility of lawsuits by the AG to stop them, and their officials risk the prospect of suspension and removal from office by the governor.
Many media outlets have repeated a narrative, as if it were objective fact, that “Florida doesn’t currently have any” sanctuary jurisdictions and “those never existed in Florida in the first place.” However, it is more accurate to say none have “designated themselves” as sanctuaries: FAIR in a 2018 report identified 15 jurisdictions that had sanctuary policies, regardless of what they called themselves, although that number has declined since as SB 168 was debated and enacted.
State Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), the bill’s sponsor, called the lawsuit “reckless and irresponsible,” and added, “[b]anning sanctuary cities is about one thing and one thing only – public safety[.]”
South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard proclaimed himself “a little baffled” at Judge Bloom’s order, and called it “ridiculous,” suggesting an appeal may be likely. He or any of the other plaintiffs have thirty days from the date of the order to file an appeal, giving them until October 30.
Click here to read Judge Bloom’s order.