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  1. Florida

Proposed 'sanctuary cities' law would set state apart, PolitiFact Florida finds

Attorney General Jeff Sessions warns 'sanctuary cities' that they could lose grants from the Department of Justice during a news conference in Washington on Monday.
Published Mar. 30, 2017

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, has raised strong objections to the proposed crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities pushed by Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha.

After six of his attempts to weaken the bill failed in committee last week, Smith argued that the enforcement penalties in HB 697 are uniquely harsh.

"It will be the only law of its kind in the nation," Smith said.

PolitiFact Florida's ruling: Mostly True.

"I can say that I haven't seen anything like this bill," said Monica Varsanyi, an associate professor at political science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, whose research explores the explosion of state- and local-level "immigration" policy-making.

Three other immigration law experts from around the country gave a similar assessment to reporter Allison Graves.

The only other state considering a bill anywhere close to Florida's bill is Texas, which is considering a piece of legislation that would prohibit sanctuary city policies and apply some of the same penalties included in HB 697, including withholding grant money and civil fines.

The penalties in Florida's bill go further by restricting grant funds for up to five years. Texas' bill only withholds funds for the following year.

Metz told PolitiFact Florida he got the idea to withhold grant money from the Texas bill but considered its language too general.

Read the whole fact-check.

In Washington, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said "sanctuary cities" that won't cooperate immigration authorities are acting unlawfully and stand to lose funds if they don't comply.

The Justice Department's inspector general has determined that policies in such jurisdictions are illegal, Sessions said Monday.

"Not only do these policies endanger lives of every American, just last May, the Department of Justice inspector general found that these policies also violate federal law," Sessions, who began leading the department this year under Trump's administration, said during a White House press briefing.

A memo issued by the inspector general raised questions about how local officials may be interpreting and applying ordinances that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. But the memo also explicitly said a formal legal determination on whether certain state and local laws or policies violate Section 1373 had not been made by immigration officials and that his office was unaware of any Justice Department decision in that regard.

The verdict: Mostly False.

Keep reading Miriam Valverde's fact-check.

Back in Florida, HB 83 would increase penalties for certain violent offenses -- including sexual battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, murder, and the use of a destructive device such as a bomb -- if the defendant was in the country illegally. The bill still has several hurdles before it reaches Gov. Rick Scott's desk.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, argued at a Monday House subcommittee hearing that it is "unclear if non-citizens can enjoy the same constitutional rights as citizens" although he said that everyone is entitled to constitutional protections for due process.

Francesca Menes, director of policy and advocacy for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, disagreed with Eagle.

"As an undocumented immigrant, you do have constitutional rights here in the United States," she said, "and that has been said over and over in the courts, that they do have constitutional rights."

Immigrants in the country without permission do have some constitutional rights, but not all. This statement also rates Mostly True. Read more of the fact-check by Amy Sherman.

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