Pro-Trump Florida GOP Chair Plans Immigration Tour That Avoids South Florida

State Sen. Joe Gruters
State Sen. Joe Gruters Florida House of Representatives
State Sen. Joe Gruters, the chair of the Florida Republican Party, announced yesterday that he's planning an immigration tour to ask would-be voters what new policies they want the all-powerful Florida GOP to enact in the coming years.

Of course, in a transparently cowardly move, the Sarasota rep is avoiding literally all of South Florida, where an extremely significant portion of Florida's immigrants actually live. According to a map Gruters posted to his "Florida Immigration Tour" website, he's heading to just six cities — Jacksonville, Orlando, Melbourne, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Fort Myers. He isn't making a single stop in Palm Beach, Broward, or Miami-Dade Counties, despite the fact that in Miami-Dade alone, more than half of all residents are foreign-born.

Instead, what Gruters is actually doing is clear: holding essentially staged town halls where pro-Trump voters will scream about immigrants making their food spicier while his real critics sit hundreds of miles away.
This is par for the course for Gruters, a man who looks like he was kicked out of the Alvin and the Chipmunks for tweeting the N-word from a burner account. Gruters previously ran Donald Trump's 2016 campaign in Florida — since then, he's parlayed that "success" into running the entire Florida Republican Party. Under his watch this year, he directly consulted with an anti-immigrant hate group and passed an "anti-sanctuary city" bill in Florida that forces every city in the state to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thanks in large part to him, immigrant families in the Sunshine State are now terrified, and groups including the American Civil Liberties Union are warning immigrants to take caution before traveling through or vacationing in Florida. Gruters is traveling with state Rep. Cord Byrd, who co-sponsored the sanctuary ban.

Now that the bill passed, Gruters is clearly trying to cash in. Earlier this summer, he took an inexplicable tour to the U.S.-Mexico border to stroll along various portions of the border wall while looking absolutely drunk with glee that it will be harder for starving kids to cross into America. Importantly, Gruters made the trip despite Florida not sharing a land border with Mexico or any other nation.

After Gruters announced the immigration tour, progressive Orlando Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos G. Smith took him to task online. Eskamani noted that Gruters' political campaign is covering the tour's costs, while Smith directly asked Gruters why he was completely avoiding the Miami metropolitan area:
"I have a question for my friend, Senator Joe Gruters!" Smith tweeted. "Why aren’t you 'listening' to people in Miami? Or anywhere in South FL? It seems strange to me that you don’t want to 'listen' to the state’s largest immigrant population while on a so-called 'immigration' tour."
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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.