Florida Ban on Sanctuary Cities to Become Law

Local law enforcement required to honor federal law enforcement’s request for an immigration detainer…

Ron DeSantis photo

Ron DeSantis/Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

(Samantha J. Gross, Miami Herald) After a week of legislative back-and-forth and the stress of rapidly diminishing time weighing on both chambers, the bill to ban sanctuary cities is headed to the Florida governor’s desk.

The controversial bill’s passage comes after months and months of heightened emotional discourse, protests and deals made among stakeholders wishing to appease the Republican base.

The bill passed 22-18 in the Senate and 68-45 in the House.

Under the bill, local law enforcement and other state agencies would be required to honor federal law enforcement’s request for an “immigration detainer,” meaning a request that another law enforcement agency detains a person based on probable cause to believe that the person is a “removable alien” under federal immigration law. The bill would essentially make the “request” a requirement.

The path to passing a bill was not a straight one, as the state’s two chambers have jockeyed for days over what will be the final product — a feud typically reserved for closed-door negotiations.

Instead of taking up the House’s amended, more punitive version of the Senate bill Thursday, sponsor Sen. Joe Gruters put forward an amendment to bring it back to the softer Senate version. The amendment passed along party lines except for Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and went back to the House for yet another vote.

The House stood in recess until the Senate voted, and took up the bill for their own vote shortly after.

The Senate’s amendment brought the bill back to most of its original language but stripped the bill of an amendment to exempt the Department of Children and Families from being forced to comply with immigration authorities, an amendment put forth and passed by Miami Sen. José Javiér Rodríguez last week.

While Democrats cheered, Republicans said the DCF amendment was a “poison pill” that shouldn’t have been passed, as it creates a “sanctuary agency” within state government. The amendment, among dozens of others put forward again by Rodríguez, did not pass Thursday.

Over the course of the legislative session, 244 amendments were filed across both chambers — 192 in the Senate and 52 in the House.

The amendments were mostly filed, re-filed and debated heavily by Democrats, who spent hours presenting proposals to exempt schools, emergency responders and firefighters from being implicated under the bill. They asked the bill to protect people seeking asylum, “dreamers,” those in the country with temporary protected status, crime victims and witnesses and military veterans.

They proposed law enforcement complete eight hours of implicit bias training and asked that the state provide therapy for any children separated from their families as a result of this bill.

None of the Democrats’ amendments passed Thursday.

“Was there not one amendment offered that could have made a bad bill better?” asked Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.

“In order to land this plane, this is the bill that we have to pass,” Gruters said.

Rep. Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat, said he liked the Senate version more than the harsher House version but was wholly disappointed.

“This a better bill than the House bill, but it’s like comparing having your leg gnawed by a wolf rather than grizzly bear,” he said. “One day, the Democratic caucus will occupy the front of this room. And one day this law will be stripped from statute.”

A similar bill to ban “sanctuary cities” passed the House last year, but it died in the Senate.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who campaigned on banning sanctuary cities as a Republican priority, has pushed hard for legislation this session. Banning “sanctuary cities” was not only a campaign promise but a key talking point in his inaugural address and State of the State speech.

If the bill is sent to the governor while the Legislature is in session, he has seven days to sign or veto it. If the bill is sent to the governor when the Legislature is not in session, he has 15 days to sign or veto it.

The governor does not have to sign a bill for it to become law if he lets the deadlines lapse.

©2019 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.