Florida's Top Lawmaker Attacks ACLU Over Racist Sanctuary-City Bill

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran Florida House of Representatives
This week marks the official beginning of the 2018 Florida legislative session (joy!), which means Tallahassee's brightest and most powerful lawmakers are rolling out their signature legislative proposals for the year. In the leadup to today, Richard Corcoran, the speaker of the state House of Representatives, has filled out the equivalent of an entire "lunatic Republican" bingo card. During the past few weeks, he has:

1. pushed an insane, anti-"sanctuary city" bill;
2. threatened to punish lawmakers who run so-called sanctuary towns; and
3. shared clips of Sean Hannity ranting about brown people set to cheap classical music.

And now Corcoran has attacked the American Civil Liberties Union and bragged about how his bill is #triggering liberals, further proving that Twitter and Fox News have rotted our brains into mush. The new year is looking up!

Corcoran has promised to fast-track his anti-sanctuary bill, HB 9, through the state Legislature by the end of this week. Because he's the House speaker, that might actually happen. The bill is next-level insane: Holding people in jail on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is outright unconstitutional, but HB 9 would force Florida cities to comply with those so-called detainer requests anyway. Those who don't would be subject to harsh penalties, including getting sued if an immigrant is released from custody and then commits murder. This is straight-up racist, because the vast majority of people detained for ICE are held for minor traffic, drug, or misdemeanor violations.

As Orlando Weekly pointed out Friday, the bill is frightening in theory but won't actually do anything in the immediate future because, technically, there are no sanctuary cities in Florida. Miami-Dade County was the closest thing the state had to a sanctuary, but Mayor Carlos Gimenez infamously put a stop to that last year. (As the Miami Herald also reported last week, he has so far received zero benefit from the Trump administration for doing so.)

But the bill's complete lack of usefulness hasn't stopped Corcoran from rolling out an ad campaign ripped straight from George H.W. Bush's Willie Horton playbook. Check out this piece of scaremongering nonsense:
(As an aside: What do Republicans think sanctuary cities actually do? San Francisco isn't just opening its jails and handing out machetes to inmates as they walk out into the daylight. People convicted of crimes, whether or not they're immigrants, still serve prison time. ICE deportations happen only after someone has served a sentence — it's added punishment for no reason other than white people not wanting to live near brown people. You also don't need to be convicted of anything for ICE to deport you; if you get arrested under false pretenses, ICE can still kick you out of the country.)

A whole lot of people have voiced severe concerns about the bill, including the ACLU, the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other civil rights organizations. In a long letter opposing the measure, the ACLU warned that anti-sanctuary policies actually contribute to crime, in that immigrants won't call the cops to report crimes such as rape or domestic violence out of fear that cops will round them up instead. Cities can also be sued for illegally detaining people. The ACLU is suing Miami-Dade County for holding a U.S. citizen in jail overnight by accident.

"By requiring localities to honor all detainers, the bill would mean that all immigrants who come into contact with local law enforcement — even victims, witnesses, and others who have not committed any crime — can be swept up in the immigration enforcement and deportation pipeline," the ACLU wrote.

Corcoran has basically taken this as a badge of honor. Rather than, say, debate any of the myriad claims the ACLU made on their merits, he has instead elected to angrily tweet at one of the nation's premier civil rights organizations. Corcoran's tweet somehow seems tame in 2018, because Donald Trump has microwaved all of our brains at this point.
Corcoran wasn't finished: In a classic act of political fart-sniffing, he had his political action committee, Watchdog PAC, send out a news release bragging about picking a bullshit fight with the ACLU.

"This week, via social media (Twitter/Facebook), Speaker Richard Corcoran rolled out pieces of his aggressive week one agenda and there's one specific exchange I wanted to flag," the PAC's spokesperson, Taylor Budowich, wrote. "Unsurprisingly, liberal groups are lining up against Speaker Corcoran's push to prevent sanctuary cities from expanding into Florida."

That's right! He's #triggering libs! Please kill us before 2019.
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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.