PolitiFact Florida: Does Andrew Gillum want to make Florida a sanctuary state?

Adam Putnam, Florida Commission of Agricultural Services and Consumer Services. (Photo from Andy Fobes/Port Tampa Bay)
Adam Putnam, Florida Commission of Agricultural Services and Consumer Services. (Photo from Andy Fobes/Port Tampa Bay)

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is using the controversial topic of sanctuary cities to drum up Republican support in his bid for governor.

At a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Putnam warned voters that one of his Democratic opponents wants a statewide expansion of policies that prevent the deportation of immigrants in the country illegally.

"There’s a candidate running for governor who wants to make Florida not a sanctuary city, but a sanctuary state," Putnam said Nov. 30. "That’s crazy talk."

There is no specific definition of sanctuary cities, but the term generally describes jurisdictions that to some extent limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials or don’t honor their detainer requests. With that in mind, we wondered: Does a Democratic gubernatorial candidate really want to make Florida a sanctuary state?

Putnam’s team singled out Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as having this plan, but nothing on Gillum’s website calls for a move on this scale. Furthermore, Gillum’s team says "sanctuary state" is not an accurate description of what Gillum envisions for Florida. So what’s the deal?

Putnam’s team pointed to a tweet and multiple news articles where Gillum criticized President Donald Trump’s January 2017 executive order to penalize cities that don’t comply with federal immigration agents by withholding federal funds.

The next day, Gillum took to Twitter and posted a lengthy statement to attack Trump’s decision as "inconsistent with our highest values," adding the United States can "protect national security interests and have a secure border without criminalizing people who are here undocumented."

Those examples didn’t show Gillum calling for a statewide sanctuary law or policy similar, though.

"The commissioner accused Andrew of something that he never said," Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan told PolitiFact Florida.

Burgan said that Gillum, as Tallahassee mayor, was clear that local law enforcement agencies are not Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. In other words, Gillum believes local law enforcement should be focused on enforcing the laws of their city, not deporting undocumented immigrants.

Gillum’s campaign website also says he will "continue to fight mass deportation policies."

"Andrew believes that a decision between security or compassionate immigration policy are false choices; we can have them both," it reads. "As governor, Andrew will use every effort to protect Florida from President Trump’s attacks on immigrants."

As of November, Tallahassee is not considered a sanctuary city by the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors stricter immigration laws.

Jessica Vaughan, the center’s director of policy studies, said Gillum’s statements to the Tallahassee Democrat indicate that he’s a "sanctuary-sympathizer" who has adopted the language of people who support sanctuary policies. While his rhetoric may raise concerns to her group, Gillum hasn’t gone as far as articulating a policy mimicking other states that do have the unofficial classification as a "sanctuary state."

So how does Putnam’s claim rate?

As mayor of Tallahassee, Gillum criticized Trump’s executive order threatening to suspend funding to sanctuary cities, and Gillum’s campaign said as governor he would support an approach that emphasizes immigration enforcement as a federal responsibility, not a local one. But Gillum has not offered a specific statewide policy for not cooperating with detainer requests and his position is murkier than Putnam describes, so we rate this claim Half True.

After this fact-check published on PolitiFact.com/florida, Putnam reiterated his strong stance against sanctuary city policies in a tweet.

"Thanks for the half true," Putnam tweeted at PolitiFact Florida. Gillum "wants to make Florida a sanctuary state. That WILL NOT happen on my watch."

Gillum responded to the tweet and called Putnam’s stance racist.

"Half true & all racist is nothing to be proud of, commissioner," Gillum tweeted. "I’m proud to stand up for all people — precisely what Floridians expect of their leaders."

The online dispute caught the attention of Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who called the fight "ironic," given how both candidates have supported amnesty for illegal immigrants.

"Ironic to see a dust up between these two on immigration, since they’ve both supported #amnesty for illegal immigrants," he tweeted. "Call it amnesty or sanctuary cities, both defy our rule of law and make the nation (and Florida) less safe. #TwoSidesOfTheSameCoin"

However, Corcoran’s claim about Putnam is missing some context. In a previous fact-check about whether Putnam supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, PolitiFact Florida found that Putnam supported some measures that would benefit undocumented immigrants and some that wouldn’t. The claim also earned a Half True.