Florida’s most recent legislative session ended with the derailing of several bills that were viewed as anti-immigrant, including legislation that would punish sanctuary cities. Perhaps the most contentious bill of the nine that were not passed was the sanctuary city bill. The legislation would suspend state grant funding and impose monetary penalties on cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration authorities, according to the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC). The bill would also divert local resources by asking local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws. According to the FLIC, the law would also permit elected officials to be removed from office if they failed to obey the statute.
Florida lawmakers put forth identical bills in the House and Senate that would give harsher sentences to illegal immigrants who are charged and convicted of violent crimes. The legislation proposes punishment automatically increase in harshness for illegal immigrants suspected of committing crimes, such as increasing a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony if the person charged is in the country illegally.
Not surprisingly, opponents of the measures argue they are unconstitutional because they unfairly discriminate by treating offenders differently depending on their legal status in the country.
The bills would additionally punish local governments in Florida who adopt “sanctuary” policies. A sanctuary city, though defined legally, is a city that limits its cooperating with the federal government’s efforts to enforce immigration law. Opinions differ in the legal community as to whether or not enforcement of immigration laws is constitutional when being carried out by local law enforcement. Those cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration efforts would also lose federal funding. Finally, the bills proposed putting an end to Florida’s participation in the federal refugee resettlement program. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the bills were a secondary measure aimed to work in tandem with President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration policies and to add additional measures for the state.
A sanctuary city, though defined legally, is a city that limits its cooperating with the federal government’s efforts to enforce immigration law.
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