The Florida House of Representatives is gearing up to ban sanctuary policies in the state after the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill (HB) 697 on April 25. HB 697, also known as the “Rule of Law Adherence Act,” was introduced by Representative Larry Metz (R-32) earlier this year. The measure will ensure the state fully participates in immigration enforcement and will eliminate policies that impede enforcement efforts in the state.
Specifically, HB 697 requires all state and local entities to comply with and support immigration enforcement to the full extent permitted by law. The measure also prohibits state and local entities from stopping or limiting public officials’ ability to maintain or communicate immigration status information with the federal government. Law enforcement agencies, under HB 697, are also required to comply with detainers issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
HB 697 also guarantees “whistle-blower” protections to any state or local employees that reports violation of the Act. Any state or local entity that violates HB 697 may be subject of fines up to $5,000 per day they are determined to be in violation of the Act.
Representative Metz introduced HB 697 to support immigration enforcement and maintain Florida’s commitment to the rule of law. “It’s all-important in my view that the rule of law be followed,” Metz said. “If we simply say, ‘If you can get here, you can stay here,’ and we don’t care about the legal distinctions, we’re going to have more and more people coming here illegally and fewer coming here through the legal immigration system.”
Senator Aaron Bean, who introduced a similar bill in the Senate, also commented on the proposal. “The one thing that everybody should know in our country is: We can’t choose which laws we’ll obey or which laws we don’t obey,” said Senator Bean.
State lawmakers around the country have made eliminating expensive sanctuary policies a priority this legislative session. Policies that block immigration enforcement efforts are especially expensive in Florida. In 2014, the Federation for American Immigration Reform estimated that Florida taxpayers pay as much as $5.2 billion annually in costs associated with illegal immigration. Florida has one of the highest populations of illegal aliens in the country, behind California, Texas, and New York.
HB 697 has been put on the third reading calendar and must be approved by the full Florida House before it can be sent to the Florida Senate for consideration. The Florida House passed a similar bill prohibiting sanctuary policies last year, but it failed to advance due to insufficient support in the Florida Senate.