Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is pulling the race card against Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam for not supporting sanctuary cities, which limit their cooperation with federal immigration policies and serve as a "safe haven" for undocumented immigrants, possibly shielding them from deportation.
Putnam waded into the sanctuary city issue at a campaign stop in Jacksonville late last month, warning voters of a then-unnamed Democratic candidate who he said supported Florida expanding protection from deportation not just to cities and local municipalities, but statewide.
"There’s a candidate running for governor who wants to make Florida not a sanctuary city, but a sanctuary state," Putnam said last month. "That’s crazy talk."
The Democratic candidate Putnam is speaking about is none other than Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who has been critical of President Donald Trump’s January executive order penalizing cities who don’t comply with federal immigration policies.
Putnam posted a link to a Politifact article claiming it was “half true” Gillum wants to make Florida a sanctuary state. He thanked Politifact for the half-true rating and then took a shot at Gillum over the policy.
“Andrew Gillum wants to make Florida a sanctuary state,” he wrote. “That WILL NOT happen on my watch.”
Gillum’s campaign team said he didn’t say anything of the sort and took the issue one step further in a tweet targeted at Putnam Friday afternoon, calling Putnam “racist.”
“Half true & all racist is nothing to be proud of, Commissioner,” Gillum tweeted. “I’m proud to stand up for all people - precisely what Floridians expect of their leaders.”
When asked to explain how Putnam was racist, Gillum's campaign team called the policy suggestion a "racist dog whistle."
"He touted it and the tweet referred to the policy," Gillum's communications director Geoff Burgan wrote.
Putnam released a quick video hours later, responding to Gillum's initial tweet.
"It's really unfortunate that we can't have a public dialogue about policy without insults," Putnam said. "Sanctuary cities are dangerous and have no place in the state of Florida. That's a fact."
Putnam's spokesperson Amanda Bevis told Sunshine State News she didn't understand how Putnam's policy against sanctuary cities was racist.
“It is not racist to want to stop the flow of illegal immigrants," she said. "It is Adam Putnam’s goal to keep Floridians safe from criminals, particularly those who are in our country illegally, like the person who shot Kate Steinle.”
The fray between Putnam and Gillum made its rounds on social media, catching the eye of another potential gubernatorial candidate, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who has been particularly vocal about the alleged dangers of sanctuary cities in Florida.
Last month, Corcoran announced he would support House legislation prohibiting Florida communities from acting as “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants.
“Sanctuary cities are a direct assault on the rule of law,” Corcoran said, adding that anyone who promises to uphold the law and backs sanctuary city policies should be “removed from office.”
The possible GOP gubernatorial candidate took a shot at both Putnam and Corcoran Thursday afternoon, claiming both Putnam and Gillum both supported offering refuge for undocumented immigrants.
When Putnam served in the U.S. House of Representatives, he supported legislation changing federal immigration laws, which included forging a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Two bills -- from 2007 and 2009 -- would have given “blue cards” to undocumented farm workers which would have eventually allowed them to apply for green cards to obtain permanent legal status if they continued working in agriculture.
Corcoran seemed to view this as hypocrisy even though Putnam has consistently voted for policies banning federal funding for sanctuary cities while serving in Congress.
“Ironic to see a dust up between these two on immigration, since they’ve both supported amnesty for illegal immigrants,” he tweeted. “Call it amnesty or sanctuary cities, both defy our rule of law and make the nation (and Florida) less safe. #TwoSidesOfTheSameCoin.”
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