Florida Passes Anti-Sanctuary Bill
By David Jaroslav | May 9, 2019
After a long battle in the face of fierce resistance the entire way, the Florida Legislature has fulfilled a promise by Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and voted to ban sanctuary policies statewide. With less than two full days left in session, Sunshine State lawmakers passed Senate Bill (SB) 168 on May 2. DeSantis can be certain to sign it in coming days.
Ever since Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) filed it in December of last year and Representative Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach) filed its House companion, House Bill (HB) 527, in January, the anti-sanctuary bills faced significant procedural hurdles. In addition, they encountered tremendous opposition from open-borders groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), United We Dream, Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and others, as well as from most major Florida media outlets. Between the two bills, there were five committee hearings—typically in rooms flooded with their opponents—and 245 amendments filed, the vast majority by Democrat lawmakers intent on weakening the bills and slowing their progress.
Although the bills’ supporters were heavily outnumbered at committee hearings, they clearly articulated the need for the anti-sanctuary legislation. They countered their opponents’ claims of bigotry by sharing their own testimony of loss that could have been prevented if criminal aliens had been removed from the country. Among those testifying were Jacksonville Angel Parents Kiyan and Bobby Michael. They spoke of how their 21-year-old son Brandon was 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.”
Even after the bills passed out of all the committees in mid-April, the prospects of making it through the House and Senate looked uncertain at times. The House passed HB 527 first, on April 24. The Senate then passed its version, SB 168, on April 26. Since there were two versions of the bill, they had to be reconciled. Initially, the House wanted its stronger language. As the date of adjournment neared, one observer said the bill could still go “up in flames”. However, the House and Senate finally agreed on language and SB 168 passed on May 2.
Upon passage, Gov. DeSantis tweeted, “I thank the Florida Legislature for presenting me with a bill that upholds the rule of law and addresses sanctuary cities and counties in Florida. We are a stronger state when we protect our residents, foster safe communities and respect the work of law enforcement.” He can be expected to sign it shortly.