Northeast Florida Senator Again Files Longshot Sanctuary Cities Bill

Oct 3, 2017

State Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) is sponsoring, for the second year in a row, a measure that would levy penalties against cities and counties that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.


That lack of full cooperation with aspects of federal immigration law is often referred to as a “sanctuary policy” and can include localities refusing federal detention orders for suspected undocumented immigrants or simply not providing local jailing information to federal law enforcement.

Immigration is within the federal government’s jurisdiction but it cannot force individual states to comply with federal laws.  Bean said his measure is just a common sense partnership with federal authorities in the interest of public safety.

“Who would’ve ever thought that we would need a law in the state of Florida that says ‘Floridians we have to follow federal law?’’ He said.”It’s a head-scratcher.”

The bill formally defines what a sanctuary policy is, though those policies are rarely written into a county, city or other governmental or law enforcement entity’s official procedures.

Bean said the bill directs Florida’s state attorneys and the attorney general to identify entities or individuals “engaging in sanctuary practices” and gives them three months to comply or risk being hit with a fine of up to $5,000 every day until policies are changed.

The bill would also revoke state grants to noncompliant localities and requires government employees to report violations of the law and protects them from retribution. It also strips noncompliant entities, officials or officers of their sovereign immunity, opening the door to citizen lawsuits.

“If they let a criminal go or if they don't report and that illegal creates or makes a crime then that official, that municipality, that county government — whomever is engaging in it — can be held directly liable for those actions,” Bean said.

This year’s bill comes nine months after President Donald Trump signed an executive order to withhold federal grant dollars from localities that don’t comply with federal immigration law. That order is currently tied up in court.

Immigrant advocates say measures like this one set up a system whereby minorities could be unfairly targeted by law enforcement. Last year, all of the Florida House’s Democrats agreed and further argued the proposed law would create an “unfunded mandate.”

The iteration scheduled for the 2018 session allows local governments to recoup costs from the state.

The earlier bill easily passed the lower chamber (76-41) because of the GOP’s dominating majority, but didn’t pass a single hearing in the traditionally more moderate Senate. Still, Bean said he’s optimistic this time around.

Calls to immigrant advocates and immigration attorneys were not returned by deadline. This story will be updated should additional comments be provided.

Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.