- Associated Press - Friday, April 28, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - After a fiery debate on Friday, the Republican-controlled Florida House approved a strict ban on so-called sanctuary cities that punishes local officials who resist federal efforts to deport immigrants living in the country illegally.

Republican lawmakers supported the proposed legislation, which passed on a 76-41 party-line vote, over the objections of Democrats who called the bill an “anti-immigrant” effort beset by constitutional hurdles.

“The idea that this is an anti-immigrant effort is not in my heart or in my mind,” State Rep. Larry Metz, the bill’s primary sponsor, responded. “I am very much in favor of legal immigration, but there is distinction between legal and illegal, and I believe in the rule of law.”

Under the proposed ban (HB 697), local officials would be fined up to $5,000 for each day the “sanctuary city” policy remains in effect. Also, any county elected official, such as a sheriff, would face suspension or potential removal from office for supporting such policies.

The measure now goes to the Senate, which also has a Republican majority, but a companion bill stalled early on in the Legislative session.

Under the bill, it would be a violation to not honor a federal immigration request, which entails local jails holding detainees past their scheduled release to give immigration authorities more time to pick them up and deport them. Opponents argue this could open the state up to litigation.

“We know a bill like this will lead to litigation and there will be a point in time where our mistakes will cost out state,” Rep. Nicholas Duran, a Democrat from Miami-Dade, said.

The state would not provide funding for the cost of increased detention costs, which would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The state, however, would withhold state grants from local jurisdictions acting as “sanctuary cities.”

Local police would need probable cause to detain someone suspected of being in the country illegally, rather than a simple inquiry into their immigration status which was initially proposed. Opponents say the state would be “overstepping” its authority and take responsibility for a federal duty.

State lawmakers pushed for a series of measures that were tough on immigration early on in the Legislative session, but most went nowhere. That included one measure that would have increased sentences for detainees based on their immigration status.


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