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Florida Lawmakers Debate Sanctuary Bills

The Florida Immigration Coalition gathers at the Florida Capitol to push back against a measure that would require local governments to cooperate with Immigration Customs Enforcement (2019).
Florida Immigrant Coalition

A pair of bills are inching their way closer to the Florida House and Senate Chambers. Senate Bill 168 and House Bill 527 would prohibit local governments from sanctuary policies.

Currently, the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency or ICE, encourages state and local law enforcement to notify them when they have an illegal immigrant in their custody.  Sanctuary cities around the country claim they won’t report these cases to ICE agents. Some Florida lawmakers say that’s a no-go. A pair of bills, have caused a bi-partisan divide with many senate and house democrats saying the measures are xenophobic.

Congressmen Darren Soto (D-FL) joined Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) as she addresses Democratic Representatives and Senators in a press conference moments before the bills last vote in a senate committee.

“Senate bill 168 ignores all of the positive reasons people come and want to be with all of us. The bill sends a message of division and it does not recognize the diverse state that we are in Florida, and it just seems that they want to lock people up because they look different, talk differently, or seem different and fan fear,” says Gibson.

Republicans who back the bills say this legislation is on the basis of public safety and rule of law. In a republican press conference bill’s sponsor in the house Representative Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville) talks about crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

“We’ve had several Floridians including a 13 year old girls in Pasco County who was killed by an illegal immigrant, and every one of these deaths is a preventable death if we just follow the rule of law,” Byrd says.

Byrd stresses these bills have nothing to do with race.

“This is not anti-immigrant. This is about not putting either legal or illegal immigrants over American citizens,” Byrd says.

A 2017 study conducted by Michael Light of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Ty Miller of Purdue University found the increase of undocumented immigration does not cause more crime. The researchers looked at data spanning from 1990 to 2014 and compared those numbers to an index of violent crimes kept by the FBI. The report found no relationship between an increase in undocumented immigration and violent crime.