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Two years ago, Florida Republicans found themselves hand in hand with Latinos and immigrants across the state.
Republicans in the state legislature, led by then House Speaker Will Weatherford, passed a bill that would grant undocumented immigrants in-state tuition at Florida’s public colleges and universities.
But incredibly, the state legislature is now pushing anti-immigrant legislation that would take our state a step backwards.
As Ted Cruz and Donald Trump continue to lead in the polls, Republicans in the state house are using their popularity as an excuse to to revert back to their previous anti-immigrant stance, and propose legislation that would negatively impact communities all across Florida.
One of the proposals currently being considered by the legislature is House Bill 9. Sponsored by Miami Republican Carlos Trujillo, House Bill 9 would charge undocumented immigrants who violate federal deportation orders with a third degree felony.
The second proposal, House Bill 675 sponsored by Yalaha Republican Larry Metz, would restrain the sovereignty of local governments across Florida by denying them the ability to engage in common sense community policing.
While legislators in Tallahassee may want you to believe that these morally corrupt proposals would help fix our nation’s broken immigration system, the truth is that both House Bill 9 and House Bill 675 carry expensive price tags that would strain the limited resources of our state’s local governments and law enforcement.
Representative Trujillo’s proposal would leave local police susceptible to Fourth Amendment violations, pinning costly litigation expenses on cities and counties who may mistakenly accuse an immigrant of violating a deportation order.
Meanwhile, Representative Metz’s bill would force local law enforcement to act as federal immigration agents, trampling over the sovereignty of our local police, counties, and cities. Furthermore, House Bill 675 would have taxpayers cover all of the costs of local immigration detainer requests – even if those requests do not lead to the apprehension of violent criminals.
It is clear that politicians in Tallahassee simply trying to inject our state with the same xenophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric that is fueling the campaigns of Republican candidates at the national level. And that is extremely unconscionable.
Florida needs to do away with partisan rhetoric on immigration, and instead focus on finding ways to recognize the contributions immigrants make across the state.
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board agrees. They recently described both House Bills 9 and 675 as “burdensome” and called on the Florida Legislature to find “reasonable, nonpunitive approaches to cooperating with immigration officials.”
The state of Florida has already demonstrated that it can enact common-sense immigration policy that benefits both documented and undocumented residents. So why succumb to the extreme anti-immigrant positions of Republicans like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz?
Our state is better than that. House Bills 9 and 675 have no place in Florida.
Our state deserves smart immigration policy that promotes cooperation between immigrant communities and local law enforcement. This is the foundation on which we, as a state, can build better, safer, and more diverse communities.
There is still time in this legislative session for Republicans to do right by the immigrant families who wish to contribute to our great state. Otherwise, they will risk alienating a key portion of the electorate who won’t take kindly to their attacks on Latinos, immigrants, and other minorities.