Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida House approves ban - and penalties - on 'sanctuary' cities

State Rep. Jason Fischer says it should be “offensive to everyone” to encourage illegal activity.

State Rep. Jason Fischer says it should be “offensive to everyone” to encourage illegal activity.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's Republican-led House voted Friday to outlaw "sanctuary" cities and to impose harsh penalties on elected officials or communities that seek to thwart that ban.

After a divisive debate that spanned almost three hours over two days, the House endorsed the proposed law by a 76-41 vote, with Democrats vehemently opposed.

Republicans said the bill supports American freedom and "the rule of law" by prohibiting local law enforcement from resisting compliance with federal immigration laws and detention requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"To essentially encourage illegal activity should be offensive to everyone," Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, said in reference to communities deemed to be "sanctuaries" for undocumented immigrants.

The controversial measures proposed in HB 697 are unlikely to become law this year. A companion bill in the Senate wasn't heard in committee.

Lawmakers still debated the legislation at length, as Republicans aimed to temper what they viewed as inflammatory rhetoric by Democrats.

"It's not requiring that you go out and hunt down people, and it's not an anti-immigrant bill," Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell said. "Before you go off and really expand what this bill does, read the bill — and understand what the bill exactly does."

Democrats argue what the bill does is target undocumented immigrants and impose an unfunded mandate on local law enforcement agencies. They say the measure is offensive to immigrants and minority populations.

"You're only picking on one entity and that bothers me," Kissimmee Democratic Rep. John Cortes said.

In describing her opposition, Coral Gables Democratic Rep. Daisy Baez described her personal story of coming to America as an immigrant. She told the House: "When you have to vote on this bill, please remember I am your colleague. I am an immigrant and when you talk about 'those people,' you're talking about me."

"I think it's wrong just to target a specific population because that's how my forefathers got here — on a free cruise," said St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton, who is black.

The federal government has sole authority over immigration. It cannot force states to enforce federal laws. But bill sponsor Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, said his proposal would ensure Florida does its part in supporting federal efforts to manage immigration.

Metz's legislation has an array of specific components, including formally defining a "sanctuary policy," prohibiting governments from adopting them and requiring any existing policies to be repealed within three months — or the government entity risks a fine of up to $5,000 a day.

The Legislature could withhold state grant funding for five years from governments that violate the proposed law, and the governor would also be empowered to remove any elected official from office who violates it.

Other provisions include requiring government officials and workers to report "known or probable violations" of the act — under threat of suspension or removal from elected office — and requiring the attorney general to investigate those reports. Whistleblowers who report violations would be explicitly protected.

The legislation advanced through the House this year in the wake of President Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration and his executive order to withhold funding from "sanctuary" cities — plans that were blocked this week by a federal judge.

Under the threat of lost dollars, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in January revoked the county's position as a "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants and ordered jails to comply with federal detention requests.

A constitutionally questionable and similarly divisive proposal, which would have subjected undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes to harsher penalties than legal residents or U.S. citizens, also is unlikely to become law this year. The legislation failed to advance in either chamber.

Contact Kristen M. Clark at [email protected] or 850-222-3095. Follow @ByKristenMClark

Florida House approves ban - and penalties - on 'sanctuary' cities

04/28/17 [Last modified: Friday, April 28, 2017 10:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Clearwater police: Car thief dead after owner fires gun


    CLEARWATER — One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it Monday night, police said.

  2. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive


    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  3. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.
  4. 'Me too': Alyssa Milano urged assault victims to tweet in solidarity. The response was massive.

    Human Interest

    Actor Alyssa Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with an idea, suggested by a friend, she said.

    Within hours of Alyssa Milano’s tweet, tweets with the words “me too” began appearing. By 3 a.m. Monday, almost 200,000 metoo tweets were published by Twitter’s count.
  5. Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says


    TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.