Hatemongering or ‘invasion’? Immigrant Coalition demands Joe Gruters cancel ‘listening tour’

joe gruters
Sarasota Republican said critics are pushing false narrative.

State Sen. Joe Gruters already postponed a listening tour of immigration issues, but now advocates for immigrant communities say they want the series of events canceled entirely.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition just launched a paid digital ad campaign demanding the Sarasota Republican “Stop The GOP Hate Tour.”

Images plaster Gruters’ face alongside that of Unite The Right protesters at a Charlottesville rally that turned deadly in 2017.

“The type of rhetoric Sen. Gruters has used in the past is tied to the type of violence we have seen throughout the country,” said Thomas Kennedy, political director for the Coalition.

He referenced specifically campaign season ads by Gruters’ Senate campaign demanding the federal government “stop the caravan invasion and lock down our borders!”

That echoed campaign rhetoric of the time about a caravan of refugees from Central America. President Donald Trump also called migrant caravans invasions during rallies. Now-Gov. Ron DeSantis called the caravans fronts for drug cartels.

In December, Trump tweeted the caravan ultimately never came to the border because of “our newly built Walls, makeshift Walls & Fences, or Border Patrol Officers & Military.”

Gruters does not apologize for using the term “invasion” and said advocates are ignoring real threats.

“We have 100,000+ people crossing our border illegally every month unchecked with some bringing with them drugs, sex trafficking victims and gang members,” he said. “The definition of invasion says what is it. People want legal immigration and it done the right way.”

He maintained the listening tour would be open to all points of view, and that he wanted advocates to participate.

But Kennedy said rhetoric around the issue suggested otherwise.

“It’s a partisan political thing meant to rile up the more extreme elements of the Republican base ahead of 2020,” Kennedy said. “The idea is not solutions-oriented and should be abandoned.”

The Immigrant Coalition delivered the strongest opposition during the legislative session to a so-called sanctuary cities ban. Gruters sponsored the bill in the Senate, and state Rep. Cord Byrd, who was also part of the listening tour, sponsored the House version.

Gruters also serves as chair of the Republican Party of Florida, and in 2016 co-chaired Trump’s presidential campaign in Florida.

“We don’t believe Sen. Gruters to be a good-faith actor, and we don’t believe him to actually want to solve immigration issues to the benefit of our communities,” Kennedy said.

He contrasted Gruters’ actions on immigration issues to other lawmakers like state Sen. David Simmons. The Longwood Republican has come out in support of work permits and driver’s licenses for undocumented residents.

“We don’t agree with everything he’s saying,” Kennedy said of Simmons. “But at least he is looking at some ways of not making the lives of immigrants in Florida, who are working and contributing to society, more intolerable.”

Notably, however, Simmons supported and vocally defended Gruters’ immigration bill last year.

Gruters postponed the listening tour after a suspected white nationalist shot and killed 22 people in El Paso. Kennedy tied that shooting to invasion rhetoric, but Gruters said he wanted no association with hate or white nationalist groups.

The Senator maintains the listening tour, which he hopes to conduct during the legislative session in 2020, will seek out solutions to the problems around immigration.

He noted federal officials set much of the border policy, but Congressional leaders have not worked together to find solutions. Therefore, Florida leaders must address the issue.

“Sticking your head in the sand and hoping the issues surrounding illegal immigration and the issues that Florida faces as a result is not a solution,” he said.

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].


  • Ray Blacklidge

    August 20, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Senator Gruters should just change his tour’s name to GOP Love Tour. After all it’s about why we need to take care of all those currently in need here before we let a bunch of people jump to the head of the line illegally. Just compare the tent city illegal immigrants live in against the tent cities American Homeless live in. Tent cities are growing in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, St. Louis, Las Cruces, Indianapolis and Honolulu. We have children who are endangered of being shot daily in Chicago, Baltimore and Houston. Senator Gruters wants to seek out solutions to the problems around illegal immigration on his tour. Let him.

  • gary

    August 20, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    It is always fun to see what the Democrats are outraged about. Everyday they have new reason to complain! Illegal immigration is a thing. Nobody simply walks into America and demands rights! Try it in just about every other country ans see where you end up!

    Hats off to Jacob for another fine piece of #FakeNews

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 21, 2019 at 6:08 am

    Everyday it is amazing to see how ruthless lying racist republicans are now! White men Republicans you are failures and losers! Yep this old white woman laughs at the overwhelming stupidity of your comments Everyday!

Comments are closed.


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