A bill banning “sanctuary cities” in Florida passed its first and only legislative committee stop on Tuesday and will now head to the Florida House of Representatives during the 2018 legislative session.
HB 9, sponsored by Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, would prohibit Florida communities from acting as “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants. Law enforcement agencies and local government entities would also be prohibited from from adopting sanctuary policies.
If passed, local officials who refuse to comply with federal authorities could be removed from their jobs.
Metz told the committee he believed the legislation was a critical step in ensuring Florida upholds federal immigration standards since it would streamline enforcement policies.
“If we're going to have a robust legal immigration system, we have to enforce the law that provides for that,” Metz said. “We can't have a parallel system of illegal immigration that is not enforced because then that will overtake the legal system, and we will have no control over our borders and our security.”
Several places in Florida act as sanctuary cities. A partial list includes smaller places like Jupiter and Lake Worth, but larger cities -- like Tampa -- have also labeled themselves as friendly territory for undocumented immigrants.
Miami was once a sanctuary city but later dropped its policy to ensure it would continue to receive federal funding.
Metz’s bill is a top priority for House leadership, which on Tuesday doubled down on its criticisms of sanctuary city policies.
“Sanctuary cities are a direct assault on the rule of law,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who said anyone who promises to uphold the law and backs sanctuary city policies should be “removed from office.”
“We've heard and read too many horror stories of people not legally in the United States committing violent crimes,” Corcoran said. “Too many families work too hard for too little to be told that demanding politicians follow the law is too much. That isn't too much to ask and Americans deserve better from their government.”
Metz’s proposal has gathered criticism from pro-immigration groups, who said the legislation would promote “hate and violence” in Florida communities.
Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, feared the policy, if passed, could heighten racial tensions in some parts of the state.
“Are we going to create a hostile environment with racial profiling against the black and brown people?” Cortes asked.
Last year, the same bill passed through the Florida House but stalled out in the Senate. Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, has filed similar legislation in that chamber this year.
Metz said his personal experiences through being a Marine and an attorney led to him filing the bill.
"Picking and choosing which laws a municipality will follow undermines public confidence in government and, by releasing criminal aliens to help them avoid deportation, removes the security all Americans have a right to enjoy,” Metz said. “Safety and security is not a partisan issue, and should not be controversial.”
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