Florida Lawmakers File Anti-"Sanctuary" Bills That Would Force Cooperation With ICE

Florida state Sen. Aaron Bean
Florida state Sen. Aaron Bean Florida House of Representatives
click to enlarge Florida state Sen. Aaron Bean - FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Florida state Sen. Aaron Bean
Florida House of Representatives
State Sen. Aaron Bean, a square-headed Republican psychopath from Jacksonville, filed a bill yesterday that would force local cops and state governments to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In layman's terms, he aims to ban sanctuary cities and communities across the Sunshine State. This is basically a bunch of nonsense designed to gin up support from Bean's racist voter base in North Florida.

"A state entity, law enforcement agency, or local governmental entity may not adopt or have in effect a sanctuary policy," the bill reads. It then adds, "A state entity, local governmental entity, or law enforcement agency shall fully comply with and, to the full extent permitted by law, support the enforcement of federal immigration law."

Any state official who failed to report unauthorized immigrants to ICE would be subject to suspension or removal from office and would have to pay a fine of up to $5,000 for each day that a "sanctuary" policy remained in place.

This past Tuesday, Sarasota state Sen. Joe Gruters also filed his own anti-sanctuary bill. Gruters, also a Republican, ran Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign in Florida before he himself ran for office.

Federal and state courts have repeatedly ruled that local jails have no constitutional duty to hold federal detainees behind bars. But though it might seem easy to dismiss these bills as needless fear-mongering, there is a chance they could pass through this Legislature. Governor-elect Ron DeSantis did not put forth many policy proposals when he was running for his seat — but one of the few ideas he stressed was that sanctuary communities are somehow dangerous and need to be banned. DeSantis will almost certainly stump for this bill when the 2019 legislative session begins.

Bean, it seems, is a willing soldier for the racist wing of the Florida Republican Party. It apparently doesn't matter that there are very few, if any, sanctuary cities in Florida or that the largest one, Miami-Dade County, began cooperating with ICE in early 2017. It also apparently doesn't matter that data shows anti-sanctuary policies (1) don't affect public safety or violent crime rates and (2) discourage immigrants from reporting crimes out of fear they'll be deported. Even some local police unions oppose bills that force cops to cooperate with ICE. Chuck Wexler, head of the Police Executive Research Forum, wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2017, for example, that anti-sanctuary, pro-deportation policies discourage immigrants from reporting instances of domestic violence.

The sanctuary debate also misses a crucial detail: Immigrants who are convicted of crimes still spend time in American prisons. They're deported only after serving their sentences. Immigrant-rights groups often argue that deporting people after-the-fact is an unfair form of added punishment based solely on a person's national origin.

None of this is stopping Bean, though. His new bill mandates that if people who are arrested (but not convicted) cannot prove their citizenship, local cops must report them to federal immigration officials for a citizenship check. If an elected official tells local cops not to work with ICE, the bill allows the state attorney general to levy penalties. If that person still fails to comply, the public servant could be charged with contempt and potentially jailed. Those who are allegedly "injured" by immigrants released from jail would also be allowed to sue state or local agencies in civil court.

Bean appears to be leaning hard on anti-immigrant hatred this year. In addition to proposing this bill, he's also filed his own version of an e-verify law that would force employers to check citizenship before hiring for, quite literally, every job in the state. In addition to being obviously racist, mandatory e-verify bills don't cut down on undocumented immigrants, critics say. They do, of course, slow down and complicate the hiring process for everyone, including natural-born citizens.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.