‘Sanctuary cities' measure headed to Senate floor

Proposal ready for final vote in both chambers

By The News Service of Florida, Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A controversial proposal aimed at preventing “sanctuary cities” was narrowly sent to the full Senate on Wednesday.

The Rules Committee voted 9-8, with opposition from Democrats and Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, to approve the proposal (SB 168) by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota.

"This bill only deals with criminals who are going through the process or are in the judicial system right now," Gruters said. "This is about keeping all Floridians safe."

Gov. Ron DeSantis supports efforts to prevent sanctuary cities, but Senate and House Republicans have differences in their bills with just over two weeks remaining in the legislative session.

Both bills would require local law enforcement to honor federal immigration detainers. That would involve local officials holding undocumented immigrants in custody based solely on the requests from federal immigration authorities, which are administrative requests.

Under the House proposal (HB 527), which is ready for a vote by the full House, local government employees or elected officials who allow or vote for sanctuary-city policies or against the repeal of the policies may be suspended or removed from office. The proposal would also allow the state to fine local governments up to $5,000 for each day that a sanctuary-city policy is in place.

The Senate proposal doesn’t include the penalties, but it would give the attorney general authority to bring civil actions against local governments that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The 17-member Senate Democratic Caucus unanimously opposes the legislation, fearful it will make undocumented crime victims afraid to come forward.

"We shouldn’t put individuals in a position to make those type of decisions," said Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. 

Both the House and Senate bills could come up and be on the governor’s desk as early as next week.

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