Though Florida has never actually established so-called "sanctuary cities," Republican state lawmakers are still attempting to pass a ban on them.
The issue crept to the surface once again last month when state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, proposed a bill
that would ensure local governments comply with requests from federal immigration authorities. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced his enthusiasm for the legislation, calling it an important issue during his first State of the State address last week.
Democratic lawmakers, however, remain skeptical. At a press conference
at the state Capitol on Monday, several Democrats from the House and Senate voiced their concerns of how a ban would inflame the problem.
"There is no such thing as a sanctuary city," says state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez said. "The proponents of this legislation have made it clear that part of the reason they're proposing this legislation is to create sanctuary cities where there aren't. Right now there are no jurisdictions in Florida that are out of compliance with information sharing with the federal law."
Lawmakers invited Natalie Charco, a Florida State University student who comes from an undocumented family and is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, to speak on behalf of the measure's opponents.
Charco argues that the legislation will speak fear in immigrant communities.
"A broken taillight can lead to separating families," she says.
State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, also points to how several Florida Republicans have advocated for granting Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans fleeing the Nicolás Maduro regime, such as former governor and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott
, who called on President Donald Trump to expand TPS for Venezuelans seeking asylum last month.
"Republicans have to decide. You can't have it both ways," Smith says. "Are you going to stand with Venezuelans who are fleeing the Maduro regime, or are you going to deport them?"
Smith adds: "I want to repeat one more fact: In 2018, 35 percent more Venezuelans were deported by ICE back to their home country, compared to 2017. Think about that as Republicans are tripping over themselves to appear to be in solidarity with the Venezuelan people. ... This totally goes against the message we should be sending."
In the course of four years more than 70,000 petitions from Venezuelans seeking asylum have been submitted to U.S. authorities, according a report from Univision
. However, detailed statistics on how many those cases were successful in acquiring asylum isn't publicly available.
The legislation would require all jurisdictions to hold individuals for up to 48 hours if ICE has placed a detainer on them.
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