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Immigrants Celebrate Legislative Victories in Florida

Grassroots advocates claimed several victories in Florida on May 9 as the legislative session ended, saying that nine bills they view as anti-immigrant were derailed, including legislation that would punish sanctuary cities.

Families and social justice advocates in Florida have visited their state Legislature in recent weeks to voice their views on bills that they say are anti-immigrant. Photo source: Florida Immigrant Coalition
Families and social justice advocates in Florida have visited their state Legislature in recent weeks to voice their views on bills that they say are anti-immigrant. Photo source: Florida Immigrant Coalition

One of the most contentious bills of the nine would have forced sanctuary cities, which generally do not cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities, to work with federal agents to do so.

In addition, the bill would have suspended state grant funding and imposed financial penalties on cities that didn’t comply, according to the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC).

It also would have diverted limited resources by asking local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws and created other problems, the coalition said. Local elected officials, for example, could have been removed from office for not obeying the statute, FLIC added.

“In a moment where hatred and discrimination is being normalized, our immigrant, Muslim and communities of colors stood together fighting back nine bills seeking to criminalize our families and legalize racial profiling in Florida,” Francesca Menes, the head of policy and advocacy for FLIC, said in a statement.

When Grassroots Organizations and Immigrant Families Come Together

The legislative victories on immigration bills in Florida were the result of a concerted effort, advocates say. The success included help from:

  • Farmworker Association of Florida
  • Farmworkers Self-Help
  • Young American Dreamers
  • Florida Immigrant Coalition

Supporters of the sanctuary city bill said it was clearly needed to support federal law and not encourage illegal activity, the Miami Herald reported.

Under one of eight other measures focused on immigration, undocumented immigrants would have potentially faced tougher sentences than other residents for the same crime, according to FLIC. That bill also was defeated.

“We focused on mobilizing the effected families so they can go and tell their own stories,” said Paola Calvo Florido, a spokeswoman for FLIC.  “Really having those stories be heard…led to the success.”

The legislative victories for immigrant communities in Florida stand in contrast to recently approved bills in Texas.

On May 7, the Texas governor signed SB 4 into law, which gives local and state law enforcement officials the right to ask residents about their immigration status. Sheriffs could face time in jail if they refuse to work with U.S. immigration agents.

In general, immigration enforcement has been the sole responsibility of the federal government. Critics of SB 4 say they will challenge the law in court.

During the week of May 8, lawmakers in Texas also approved legislation that allows for privately-run family immigration detention centers to be officially designated as child care providers.

Immigrant rights advocates contend that holding youth in such facilities can cause trauma for them and their families.

In Texas, just as in Florida and other states, immigrants and social justice advocates are organizing rallies and events to voice their opposition to these recently approved bills.

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Paul Nyhan is the senior writer for Equal Voice News, which is published by Marguerite Casey Foundation. This report includes information from The Associated Press. It has been updated since it was posted. 


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