Tallahassee, FL – The Florida House of Representatives voted Wednesday to ban “sanctuary cities” from their state.
The bill mandates that local law enforcement will coordinate with federal authorities in identifying illegal immigrants, the Washington Examiner reported.
There are currently no sanctuary cities in the state of Florida, but this legislation would ban the future creation of any such entities.
The goal of the legislation is to force all local authorities within the state to cooperate with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), The Gainesville Sun reported.
Florida House Bill 527 has been one of the most hotly-contested proposed laws of this legislative session.
Pro-immigration groups have staged frequent protests in Tallahassee and have maintained a constant presence in the Capitol, The Gainesville Sun reported.
Ahead of the legislation passing, some jurisdictions have already begun taking liberties that are considered the norm in avowed sanctuary cities, and they have no plans to change course unless the law requires it.
Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Art Forgery said their county would continue to release foreign-born inmates instead of holding them for ICE to determine their legal immigration status, according to The Gainesville Sun.
However, if the prohibition on sanctuary cities is passed, the sheriff’s office has plans to comply with the new law.
Supporters of HB 527 pointed to the violent crimes committed by some illegal aliens as justification for turning those people over to federal immigration authorities.
Republican State Representative Mike Caruso said the bill will even protect some illegal immigrants by removing the violent offenders from their neighborhoods, The Gainesville Sun reported.
“This bill is not about removing illegals from the state of Florida,” Caruso said. “This bill is about protecting the citizens of the state of Florida. This bill is about protecting even illegals in the state of Florida.”
Opponents of HB 527 are worried that the legislation would cause illegal immigrant families to be torn apart over minor crimes, The Gainesville Sun reported.
“We are concerned it’s going to do more damage to our families and separating them,” Democratic Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani said.
Democratic Florida State Representative Cindy Polo gave an emotional and dramatic speech on the House floor in which she revealed that her own parents are in the United States illegally, according to The Gainesville Sun.
Polo said her parents’ visas ran out but they “extended their stay and according to members in this House and in this chamber my parents were quote ‘outside of the law.’”
“Is that who we are referring to as criminals — is it my father who worked 18 hour shifts to make sure that my brothers and I would have a [sic] opportunity?” she said through tears. “Is that who we are referring to as criminals? Because they did it for me.”
But Republican lawmakers pushed back and said controlling immigration protected the people who have applied to get into the United States legally.
GOP Florida State Representative Randy Fine told the story of how it took one of his legislative assistants four years to get a visa to emigrate from Russia, The Gainesville Sun reported.
Fine said his staffer was “infuriated as someone who followed those rules and being told what she did was wrong because if she cared about her family she would have just come illegally.”
Supporters of the legislation maintain that HB 527 is about protecting public safety and maintaining the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, according to The Gainesville Sun.
“This bill is not anti-immigration,” Republican State Representative Thad Altman argued to his colleagues. “This bill is about immigrants that are here illegally and also have even violated the laws of our land. Anytime we allow lawlessness we do an injustice to those who have come here through the proper legal process.”
HB 527 passed in the state house on April 24 and its companion bill will go before the Florida State Senate later in the week, where it’s expected to pass without problems.
The bills are different – the house version includes penalties for those who violate the sanctuary city ban – but the state senator who sponsored the senate version doesn’t think there will be a problem reconciling the two, The Gainesville Sun reported.
The Florida House version of the legislation will fine cities who adopt sanctuary policies $5,000 a day while the illegal policy is in place, the Washington Examiner reported.
Republican Florida State Senator Joe Gruters said he has been working with the house sponsor and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and that he felt very optimistic they “can bring this in for a landing.”
DeSantis has been a vocal supporter of the ban on sanctuary cities in Florida, according to The Gainesville Sun.
“I’m glad to be the catalyst to help this happen,” Gruters said. “And we have Ron DeSantis, our governor, who has made this a priority. That’s why this is moving forward.”