The Florida House of Representatives passed a bill to ban sanctuary cities in Florida, a top priority for House leadership during the 2018 legislative session.
The bill passed 71-35 on a party line vote.
HB 9, sponsored by Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yahala, would prohibit Florida communities from acting as “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants. Law enforcement agencies and local government entities would also be prohibited from adopting sanctuary policies.
Fines for city council members who violate the ban or refuse to comply with federal immigration policies could climb up to $5,000.
Local officials who refuse to work with federal authorities could be removed from their jobs if the bill becomes law.
Passing the legislation was a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who said the bill was a way for lawmakers to protect Floridians against “dangerous policies in sanctuary cities.”
“Sanctuary cities are a threat to the safety of our communities,” Corcoran has said on the measure.
Debate in the House centered around recent comments reportedly made by President Donald Trump about Haiti and African nations at a meeting with lawmakers Thursday. Trump is alleged to have trashed the nations as “shithole countries” — comments which drew the attention of state reps in their arguments on that chamber’s floor on Friday.
“I do not share those sentiments,” Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, said of the comments. “I do not support them, they are out of bounds. This bill is about following federal immigration law, not the whims of a President. Presidents come and go, politicians come and go. The one thing that must remain consistent is the rule of law.”
Donalds voted in favor of the bill.
Liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Democrats said the legislation would further an atmosphere of fear in Florida.
“HB 9 represents a grave threat to public safety and the civil rights of all Floridians,” ACLU Florida said in a statement Friday. “Our local law enforcement agencies’ core responsibility is to protect and serve their communities, not assume the burden of enforcing federal immigration law. By forcing local police to become de facto immigration agents, this bill will deter immigrant victims and witnesses from cooperating with police out of fear of deportation and will inevitably undermine law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe.”
Though the bill received significant support in the Florida House, the measure appears dead in the Senate, which would also need to pass the legislation for it to become law.
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