Joe Gruters optimistic on so-called sanctuary cities ban, less so E-Verify

Gruters vertical

A ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” remains state Sen. Joe Gruters’ top priority this session. E-Verify, meanwhile, no longer makes the top five.

But the Sarasota Republican said that’s just a matter of what bill moved this year. He told a crowd of constituents in Venice he still wants both pieces of legislation.

“It’s very important we get both of them done because that will take care of the immigration problem,” he told Florida Politics. “But right now, the focus is on Sanctuary Cities. E-Verify is right around the corner.”

Gruters held a town hall Saturday morning at the Venice Community Center. Billed as a meeting on immigration and red tide, the senator touched on everything from online sales taxes to guns in school.

As promised, his legislation (SB 168) requires law enforcement to hold individuals in custody with immigration retainers inspired heated conversation.

“There are two kinds of immigration, legal and illegal.” Gruters told constituents. “We want people to do it the right way, not the wrong way.”

He stressed at the event his bill doesn’t set immigration policy, which remains the jurisdiction of the federal government.

The bill in Tallahassee has already exposed partisan divides. Gruters bill passed two committees in the Senate and awaits placement on a Rules agenda. A House version (HB 527) has also advanced and heads now to the Judiciary Committee.

The majority of attendees at Gruters’ town hall Saturday applauded as he discussed the legislation. But the bill concerned others.

One man waved a poster that read in all caps: “End The Trump And Gruters Fear And Hate Campaign.”

Former Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner.

Former Sarasota mayor Kelly Kirschner, who attended Catholic school with Gruters, spoke out against his former schoolmate’s priorities.

Kirschner noted the coastal district’s economy relies on three industries — development, agriculture and hospitality — that traditionally employ undocumented workers.

“Should we go after that first?” Kirschner asked.

“Believe me, I am not stopping,” Gruters said. “I do want to hold everybody accountable.”

Kirschner suggested after speaking that if Republican lawmakers were serious about illegal immigration, they would first tackle employment problems.

“If this economy is being built on exploitative labor practices, why not have stiffer penalties for agriculture, developers and restaurateurs?” he said.

“They just want it to seem like they are doing something.”

Gruters said there’s a lot of reform he would like to see at the federal level when it comes to immigration. But citizens have to petition Congress for much of that.

And he dismissed the notion anything had been done to logroll the issue of E-verify in favor of a sanctuary cities ban.

An E-Verify bill (SB 164) filed by state Sen. Aaron Bean, a Jacksonville Republican, would allow state agencies to suspend business licenses for failing to verify employees could legally work in the country. Gruters co-introduced the legislation.

Outside of immigration, Gruters stressed he personally remains an opponent of arming teachers. But he is leaning toward supporting a bill letting school districts make that decision, noting some rural districts can’t afford a security force.

He strongly supports the undergrounding of more utilities in Florida to better harden the state from hurricane damage.

And he applauded Gov. Ron DeSantis for a “laser-like focus” on environment issues. Gruters listed a red tide initiative at Mote Marine as a top priority of this session.

Otherwise, he continues to support an “e-fairness” bill for Florida to collect online sales taxes, and in exchange get rid of a business rent tax. As state GOP chair, he hopes his stance gives members cover such a move would not be a tax increase.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • kelli

    April 6, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Democrats want this. They will with hold support allowing as many illegal aliens to enter the country before assisting in border security. Dems offer rewards, incentives so…..More caravans on the way. The current migration at our border is costing U.S taxpayers a Kings ransom. Fleeing persecution? or fleeing for freebies? they sure don’t stay in Mexico when they reach “safety” or ask or offered political asylum in Mexico. Why? because Mexico will give them NOTHING. So they make the long journey to our border, our generous Democrats, and our tax dollars. Notice how many have made the long, difficult, dangerous journey to our country 8-9 months pregnant? Give birth on American soil and the U.S. taxpayers will not only pay for the birth of you’re child but will also give you state government assistance.

    TPS / DACA
    To Democrats/Progressives/Socialists (whats the difference?) programs like Temporary Protective Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA) are permanent programs. There is nothing “temporary or deferred” about these programs to Democrats. These programs are designed to admit refugees (usually from the third world) then Democrats fight to keep them here permanently using the charge of racism, religion, guilt against anyone opposed. Simple formula works great.

    Democrats view U.S. citizens as acceptable collateral damage to their future long range goals of flooding the country with refugees & illegal aliens and having taxpayers paying the cost. Democrat politicians and their voters have put families at risk of being victimized by illegal aliens as in the cases Kate Steinly (nothing done) then, Mollie Tibbetts, (nothing done) Police Cpl. Ronil Singh, (nothing done) now Bambi Larson; butchered in her home, nothing will be done…who’s next? These victims would be alive today if our border was secured. Most of these killers have been deported numerous times. Bambi ‘s killer claimed “amnesty” to get into the country. Sanctuary city’s where you have protection for illegal aliens, gang members, illegal alien felons fleeing ICE. What a place to raise a family.

    Just a few examples of the more outrageous costs associated with illegal immigration, we will pass this burden on to our children & grand children as has been passed on to us.

    *Cost of educating illegal aliens is staggering. From K-12 it costs taxpayers on average $122,000 for EACH illegal alien student. This does not include the millions spent on bilingual ED, instructors, special need children & day care. School class size are negatively impacted by illegal aliens and our students suffer as a result.

    *Taxpayers in some states are funding “in state college tuition” discounts for illegal aliens. (AZ voted to terminate this taxpayer expense.) Cost to taxpayers over a billion dollars annually.

    *About one in five inmates in federal prison are foreign-born, & more than 90% of those are in the U.S illegally. This does not include local jails and state prisons. At roughly $24,000 per year expense per inmate.

    *$3Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate, process Illegal aliens in the criminal justice system.

    *Mexico received 33 billion last year in remittance. 120 billion total was sent out of the country in total remittance last year.

    *Every child birth by illegal aliens in the U.S is paid for with tax dollars.In the US, the average cost to have a baby without complications during delivery, is $10,808, which can increase to $30,000 when factoring in care provided before and after pregnancy (July 9, 2018 google.)

    * Section 8 housing. Illegal aliens take full advantage of this program. Citizens & their families in poverty in many cases wait years behind non citizens for emergency housing.

    * City emergency services Taxpayer pay for every police, fire, paramedic service call for illegal aliens in their city. Taxpayers also pay for all hospital, emergency room treatments, ambulances, medications….everything. Hospital wait times for citizens are negatively impacted.

    *Congress is debating DACA and is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Thank the parents and Barrack Obama.

    *$2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on is spent on food assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, & taxpayer funded school lunches. Visit youtube search “cost of illegal immigration.”

  • Sam

    April 7, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Sanctuary cities do not exist, employers who hire illegals certainly do. So it’s no wonder that it will be a lot easier to pass a phony baloney sanctuary cities ban than a mandatory e-verify requirement for private employers. I guess we get the government we deserve.

  • James

    April 7, 2019 at 10:57 pm

    All of you commenters, what are you guys smoking? Do you really believe yourselves that the Democrats want to destroy us. It’s you persuasion that will destroy us. Yes we have a problem and I am concerned but don’t start foolish negative thinking. Working together solves problems. Joe Gruters doesn’t have a thought of his own.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704