Judge declares Florida ‘Sanctuary Cities’ ban unconstitutional

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Miami, Florida; UNITED STATES; General overview aerial view of American Airlines Arena and downtown Miami. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

  • The judge said the law was passed on discriminatory grounds
  • Broad police discretion would lead to racial profiling
  • Some provisions have survived, such as the ICE compliance requirement

(Reuters) – A federal judge has ruled that a Florida law prohibiting municipalities from illegally adopting “sanctuary” policies for immigrants to the United States is unconstitutional, his ruling based in part on support from the United States. law among “anti-immigrant hate groups”.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in Miami said Tuesday in a 110-page ruling that the 2019 law championed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution because it had was adopted on discriminatory grounds.

Bloom had held a six-day trial in January over the lawsuit, which had been brought by the city of South Miami and several advocacy and nonprofit groups.

The judge said on Tuesday that the state’s claim that the law was designed primarily as a public safety measure was not supported by crime statistics and other evidence, including the involvement of far-right groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform in drafting the law.

“Allowing anti-immigrant hate groups that openly promote xenophobic, nationalist and racist ideologies to be intimately involved in the legislative process of a bill is a significant departure from procedural standards,” Bloom wrote.

The judge allowed several provisions of the law to survive, including requiring local law enforcement to comply with requests by U.S. immigration and customs officials to detain people beyond their due date. release so they can be retrieved by federal agents.

The offices of DeSantis and Florida lawyer Ashley Moody did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Neither do the plaintiffs, who are represented by Florida Legal Services.

Florida State Senator Joe Gruters, a Republican who sponsored the law, said it was passed out of concern for public safety and Bloom was “misled” into concluding otherwise.

“I look forward to this decision overturned,” Gruters said in an email.

The 2019 law banned a wide range of so-called “sanctuary policies,” such as those that prevent state and local police from helping federal immigration officers and inquiring about the immigration status of individuals. The law also requires law enforcement agencies to do their best to enforce federal immigration laws.

At least 10 other states, including Texas, Missouri, and South Carolina, have passed similar laws banning sanctuary policies or refusing to fund cities that adopt them.

Texas’ motion to dismiss a challenge to a 2018 state law is pending. The 5th US Court of Appeals that year refused to prevent the law from coming into force pending the outcome of the case.

DeSantis and other Florida law supporters said it would improve public safety by keeping criminals out of communities. But many Democrats and advocacy groups have claimed the measure would discourage immigrant communities from cooperating with law enforcement and increase cases of racial profiling.

Bloom endorsed many of those criticisms on Tuesday and said the law violated the equal protective rights of Hispanics and blacks. The law was clearly designed to give law enforcement officers broad discretion, even though they know minority communities would bear the brunt of proactive policing, Bloom said.

“These discriminatory grounds are evidenced by the historical and current pattern of racial discrimination by law enforcement and the growing reliance on an immigrant threat narrative to justify the adoption of legislation. anti-immigrant across the country, ”the judge wrote.

The case is City of South Miami v. DeSantis, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, No. 1: 19-cv-22927.

For the Complainants: Alana Greer of Florida Legal Services and Rebecca Ann Sharpless of the University of Miami School of Law

For the State: Karen Ann Brodeen and James Percival of the Florida Attorney General’s Office

(This article has been updated to include a statement from Florida State Senator Joe Gruters.)

Daniel Wiessner

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor, employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy development. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.


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