America’s two most populous states have taken polar opposite positions in the country’s immigration debate. Texas has passed a law banning sanctuary jurisdictions across the state, while California has passed a law making the entire state a sanctuary.
Somewhere in the middle is Florida: the country’s third most populous state, which lacks a uniform statewide policy. As a result, Florida’s cities and counties have come up with radically different policies on their own. While St. Petersburg is the only city in the state that publicly embraces the sanctuary label, Floridians might be surprised to know just how widespread sanctuary policies actually are in the Sunshine State.
Two Florida cities, West Palm Beach and Key West, along with the Broward County school board, passed resolutions this year that forbid their employees from asking people about their immigration status, from sharing information with ICE, and assisting in general immigration enforcement. Both are clear violations of federal sanctuary laws
But far more commonplace throughout the state, and likely even less well-known, is a policy that at least a dozen or more of Florida’s 67 county sheriffs have embraced for years: A refusal to honor immigration detainers. Immigration detainers are requests to local police departments to hold a criminal alien for up to 48 hours until Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can take custody of them and eventually remove them from the country. Detainers are perhaps the single most important component of state and local cooperation with federal immigration officials in terms of public safety, since they ensure that dangerous criminal aliens are not released back onto Florida’s streets.
This problem arises because most people in the state’s county jails have not yet been sentenced, and can be released on bond at any moment. Without an advance notification to ICE of their pending release and compliance with the subsequent issued ICE detainer, the alien can be released and disappear forever. Sadly, this is a scenario that has repeatedly been played out not only in Florida, but across the country.
Thankfully, Florida now has the opportunity to embrace new legislation that will ensure uniformity across the state and end the various forms of sanctuary laws. Last week, the Florida House Judiciary gave thumbs up to House Bill 9, which bans sanctuary policies statewide, and specifically requires all state and local law enforcement to honor detainers. The bill could be taken up on the House floor early next year.
On the Senate side, Joe Negron, who co-sponsored an anti-sanctuary bill in the Senate in 2016 and has made public safety a top priority, is now Senate president and will likely be receptive to moving against the state’s sanctuary policies. That could all bode well for ending Florida’s dangerous sanctuary policies and injecting common sense back into law enforcement.