Critics blast Joe Gruters immigration listening tour as ‘election politics’
Joe Gruters, Anna Eskamani

Gruters Eskamani
Joe Gruters' committee will pay for tour. Anna Eskamani says that's telling.

Two lawmakers behind a so-called sanctuary cities ban will travel Florida on a listening tour. But critics say the fact a political committee will foot the bill shows the trip to be about campaigning, not crafting policy.

State Sen. Joe Gruters and state Rep. Cord Byrd, both Republicans, announced specifics about the tour Thursday.

But state Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, immediately noticed something about the tour website. A notice at the bottom shows it’s paid for and approved by Florida Conservatives United, Gruters’ political committee.

“This website is paid by a political organization, illustrating once more that this ‘listening tour’ isn’t about good policy; it’s about election politics,” Eskamani wrote on Twitter.

Gruters responded by inviting Eskamani to one of the stops. That since prompted a heated online back and forth about immigration policy.

For his part, Gruters says he wanted the political committee to cover expenses lest he is accused of misusing public funds.

“I could have paid for the tour using state funds but I think I would have been attacked by people for using state funds,” he tells Florida Politics.

“I want the focus to be on the tour and on our efforts and not if state dollars should have or have not paid for it so I decided to pay with private funds.”

But Eskamani said this just reinforces that Gruters and Byrd aren’t interested in a full debate.

The two lawmakers notably served as the Senate and House sponsors for controversial immigration legislation signed into law in June. That requires local law enforcement to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including holding individuals with detainer orders for days even if they get picked up on minor offenses.

“The reality is that Sen. Gruters and Rep. Cord Byrd are not neutral facilitators on the issue of immigration,” Eskamani told Florida Politics.

“These events are politically motivated, and knowing that they are politically funded exemplifies that point.”

Notably, Eskamani’s sister Ida Eskamani works as public policy director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the chief critics of this year’s immigration bill. Ida Eskamani weighed in online to criticize the tour as well.

“With all due respect Senator, it is way too late to start listening,” she wrote.

Gruters, also the chair for the Republican Party of Florida, has worked to position himself as a lead crafter of Florida immigration policy. He said the tour will further help with that.

“First, we cracked down on sanctuary cities,” he tweeted. “Now we’re traveling the state to hear from YOU on what more Tallahassee can do to fix our broken immigration system.”

Florida Conservatives United also recently covered the cost of a trip Gruters made to the U.S.-Mexico border. The Senator released a mini-doc (see below) about that trip last month.

Eskamani, though, said that with privately funded events, it’s more likely people with dissenting points of view will be removed from tour stops.

“If we really want to talk about immigration,” she said, “we should have events hosted by a neutral entity that has bipartisan voices, one that is centered around directly impacted people.”

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]


  • Dan

    August 2, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    Like you said… Critics. Their sole purpose is to criticize everything. The indoctrinated people brought to Tallahassee were paid for by California Socialists wanting to deny and dilute U.S. Citizen rights and the sovereignty of our Nation. Illegal Aliens do not have a right to be here, so their socialist subsidies taken from U.S. tax payers should be denied.

  • DumpTrump2020

    August 2, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Gruters is just a publicity hound within his own tribe and he constantly ingratiates himself to the tribe in hopes they’ll make him their nominee for governor in 2026. He’s strictly a partisan animal always looking to be “important”. A lot like Trump in that regard.

Comments are closed.


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