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House panel moves version of ‘sanctuary cities’ bill

The bill “is bad policy that would violate the Constitution,” one group says.

With the House version of “sanctuary cities” legislation clearing its first of three committees Wednesday, a leading civil rights group slammed it as “wasteful and unconstitutional.”

The bill (HB 527), by Neptune Beach Republican Cord Byrd and Vero Beach Republican Erin Grall, creates the “Rule of Law Adherence Act” to “require state and local governments and law enforcement agencies … to support and cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.”

Immigration issues, such as President Donald Trump‘s fight for a “wall” along the country’s southern border with Mexico, has fueled debate — and fired up the GOP’s base.

Specifically, some Republican lawmakers want to ban so-called sanctuary cities in Florida for undocumented immigrants, making it their priority this Legislative Session. Currently, however, there are no counties or cities in Florida that act as “sanctuaries” for the undocumented.

The bill “is bad policy that would violate the Constitution, waste taxpayer money, make our communities less safe, separate families, and expose local law enforcement to costly civil rights lawsuits,” said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, in an email.

“By forcing local and state police to detain people for federal immigration authorities without probable cause, this law would violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable seizure, making police and sheriffs’ departments vulnerable to costly litigation,” he added. “We are all safer when everyone is free from being illegally held in jail.”

Proponents, however, say it’s the “right thing to do.” Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, is carrying a version in his chamber.

“Not only is this the right thing to do from my party’s perspective, but the right thing to do for Florida,” Gruters said. His bill (SB 168) has cleared two of its three review committees, both times on party-line votes.

McCoy said the legislation “would inhumanely separate families, tearing apart parents and their children. This can have long-term, traumatic effects on our youth and communities.

“The SPLC Action Fund urges the House to kill this wasteful and unconstitutional bill.”

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Background contributed by the News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

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