Lawmakers near final vote on illegal immigration crackdown
John Snyder. Image via Colin Hackley.

Gov. DeSantis is getting much of what he's asked for on immigration.

The House is primed to pass legislation to further crack down on illegal immigration, a priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis. However, critics say the bill is a political move that would harm the wrong immigrants.

After the Senate approved the bill (SB 1808) along party lines late Thursday, the House considered the bill Tuesday evening with plans to vote on it Wednesday. With the bill’s anticipated passage, lawmakers will hand the Republican Governor another major win from his 2022 Session agenda.

The measure, carried by Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, would prevent transportation companies from doing business with Florida if the companies participate in programs transporting to the state people who are in the country illegally.

DeSantis announced the proposal in December after criticizing President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, including bringing flights to Jacksonville to relocate people he claims were in the country illegally. DeSantis and Bean, whose district includes part of Duval County, have said Florida is aware of 78 early morning flights organized by the federal government carrying immigrants to Jacksonville.

Rep. John Snyder, the Stuart Republican shepherding the bill through the House, told members the bill addresses how immigration law is supposed to work.

“What we’re calling out is the abhorrent behavior of the federal government that is chartering flights in the dark of night to bring unauthorized aliens into the state of Florida,” Snyder said.

Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith called references to “midnight flights” by DeSantis and others “xenophobic rhetoric.” Fellow Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani told members the bill is grounded in fear.

“This notion of people being smuggled into the state is not accurate, especially since these have been routine flights happening under multiple administrations, President (Donald) Trump included. The entire premise is false,” she said.

With changes made last month, Republicans argue the bill would not impact transportation companies’ ability to move unaccompanied minors, people protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or those with Temporary Protected Status. The bill labels immigrants not accepted as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act as “unauthorized aliens.”

“It is a complex, maze-like decision matrix,” Snyder said. “I wish that there was a black and white answer that we could clearly point to, but again, I believe this speaks to why this conversation is so important, why we need to continue to elevate that and put the pressure on the federal government to make this more readable.”

However, Democrats and immigration activists say Bean and Snyder referenced the entire immigration code, which they call vague. Additionally, by tying the definition to unauthorized aliens, other immigrants who are unlawfully present would be targeted by Florida’s law.

Immigration lawyers with the Florida Immigrant Coalition say the bill would impact children, DACA and TPS recipients, and refugees from Afghanistan, Haiti, Venezuela and even Ukraine. The problem lies in the federal immigration code, which distinguishes between “inadmissible” and “unauthorized” immigrants. Immigrants can be unauthorized but considered admissible.

“All in all, my quarrel is that the drafting of the bill reflects a poor understanding of immigration which causes broad, harmful consequences, and possibly even achieves results not intended by the drafters,” said Mark Prada, an immigration lawyer and executive in the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

In September, a federal judge struck down part of the 2019 sanctuary cities law, but Republicans hope the new bill will be another shot at the measure as the ruling goes to an appeal.

The new legislation would take effect immediately with DeSantis’ signature.

The bill also would require that counties strike agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to participate in a program for local law enforcement officers to help with immigration enforcement. Many counties have already reached such agreements.

DeSantis’ proposed budget included $8 million to transport undocumented immigrants out-of-state. The proposal appeared in neither chamber’s budgets until Sunday, when the Senate included $12 million in its proposal for that purpose. The House agreed to that spending Tuesday morning.

While the Legislature is pushing forward with the provision, the bill doesn’t consider two of DeSantis’ major five proposals to address the “Biden border crisis.”

The bill doesn’t contemplate strengthening E-Verify enforcement or requiring private entities that bring immigrants to Florida illegally to compensate the state for “the harmful costs that fall on the public.”

DeSantis also asked for jails and courts to collect the immigration status of individuals at the time of their arrest and conviction, but the bill doesn’t go that far with its immigration status reporting provisions.

DeSantis faces re-election in November and is an early front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, a possibility the Governor has brushed off. Democrats in the House and the Senate have repeatedly alluded

“Maybe you don’t recognize that you’re being used as a pawn,” North Miami Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph said to Snyder.

In a letter to lawmakers and DeSantis on Wednesday, leader’s from Florida’s Venezuelan and American Business Immigration Coalition Action called the bill a direct attack on the Venezuelan community. They feared many immigrants with Temporary Protected Status could fall into the bill if their work permits are delayed due to backlogs at federal immigration offices.

The bill was done for political reasons, the groups continued.

“All these people want — our family, our neighbors — is to be able to work to provide for their families,” they wrote. “It is an outrage that this bill risks jeopardizing their ability to do so, injects instability and uncertainty into their long-term plans.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • Janis

    March 9, 2022 at 2:47 pm

    Politicians need to quit playing their games and realize these illegals are destroying our country because they don’t respect it, or the people. Here in PA we have been inundated with them and all they do is drive around in government-given brand new vehicles, trafficking drugs! If they want to be here, then they need to work for that privilege…..learn English, have a job lined up, learn our culture (s), and to RESPECT OUR LAWS! Can you imagine if we moved to Russia and acted like they are? Boundaries are not just physical! 🇺🇸🦅⚔️🙏🏻

    • Debts

      March 9, 2022 at 3:39 pm

      Just coming back to take the land you took colonizer

      • Bout time

        March 10, 2022 at 8:50 am

        It will be good to have some awesome food and real culture unlike the stuff these republicans have.

Comments are closed.


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