Elevated Criminal Penalties For The Undocumented Passes Second House Panel

Mar 27, 2017

Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral)
Credit Florida House of Representatives

A House panel faced stiff opposition as it passed a measure assigning heightened punishments to undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) is backing a measure that would impose stiffer punishments on undocumented offenders.  The bill raises penalties by one degree for five violent crimes.  But Kara Gross from the ACLU of Florida argues the measure won’t survive a constitutional challenge.

“It is an unconstitutional violation of the supremacy clause to impose state criminal punishment for activity that is already comprehensively regulated by the federal government and determined by the federal government not to be subject to criminal penalties.”

Eagle defends his bill arguing, “To say that it’s unconstitutional is purely speculative.  There are plenty of facts that point the constitutionality—or at least potential constitutionality—of this bill.”

Still, Gross’ warning likely gives some lawmakers pause—in recent years a number of dubious measures have fared poorly in the courts.  The AP reports Florida has spent more than a quarter billion dollars in legal fees since Governor Rick Scott took office.

Eagle’s measure passed on party lines.