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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Trump ally takes page from Ted Cruz to push immigration reforms at GOP convention



Donald Trump has few closer allies in the Sunshine State than Joe Gruters, the Sarasota Republican who co-chairs his Florida campaign and has regularly hosted events for him in the state, even when Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were thought to be leading contenders for the White House.


But on Tuesday in a key meeting leading up to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Gruters sounded much like another former presidential contender in pushing for tougher immigration laws.


During a meeting of the Republican National Convention’s platform committee, Gruters proposed an amendment that mirrors U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposal to toughen penalties for deported undocumented immigrants who are caught a second time re-entering the nation. Just last week, Cruz lost a key vote in the Senate on “Kate’s Law” aimed at stiffening penalties against people caught repeatedly entering the nation illegally.


Cruz’s law was a response to Kate Steinle, a 32-year old woman shot in San Francisco by a felon who had been deported five times. During his campaign for the White House, Cruz frequently brought up Steinle's death and the need for a tougher response from the Obama Administration.


Like Cruz’s bill, Gruters amendment to the official Republican Party platform advocates for a 5 year minimum prison sentence for anyone who has been deported and then illegally re-enters the United States again.


“Any previously deported illegal immigrant who continues to show a lack of respect for our borders and the rule of law, must be penalized,” Gruters said during a debate on the platform committee on Thursday.


In a telephone interview from Cleveland, Gruters acknowledged his proposal blends an idea Cruz has pushed that Trump has supported.


“It’s really a no brainer,” said Gruters, who is running a campaign of his own for the state Legislature.


Gruters is running against Steve Vernon in a Republican Primary on Aug. 30 for a Florida House District that includes parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties.


Gruters and Duval County Republican Party chairwoman Cindy Graves are both in Cleveland early to work on the GOP’s platform committee. Each state gets two representatives to serve on the committee to draft the party’s overall platform, which will be presented to the full Republican National Convention next week.


The Convention starts on July 18 and ends on July 21.

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 12, 2016 2:13pm]


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