Immigration activists concerned about state legislation they say targets them held events throughout Florida on Wednesday, including in Tampa.
Groups going under the name “We Are Florida” are criticizing several bills percolating in Tallahassee this Session, none more so than House Bill 675. Sponsored by Yamaha Republican Larry Metz, it would penalize cities, counties and sheriffs in Florida that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
“It’s going to create fear,” said Nancy Palacios, an organizer with the group Faith in Florida. “It’s going to create a lack of collaboration between the police force and the community, where people won’t want to report any kind of criminal activity or any kind of crimes because they would be scared to be asked their status.”
Palacios added that it was going to create fear in parents “who want to send their kids to school because they’ll fear that their kids might be reported over to immigration because they’re undocumented.”
Palacios was among several activists to speak with reporters outside Tampa City Hall. They called on Mayor Bob Buckhorn to pass an ordinance that would preclude Tampa from participating with the state on such a law.
That would make Tampa what’s called a sanctuary city, and make it one of hundreds across the country with policies, laws, executive orders, or other regulations allowing them to avoid cooperating with federal immigration law enforcement authorities.
The issue became toxic after a San Francisco woman’s slaying this past summer by an undocumented immigrant recently released by the local sheriff.
The ACLU of Florida has released a report identifying at least 30 counties in Florida that have policies to not respond to Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests, or to honor them only in limited circumstances, such as accompanying a judicial warrant. They include Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota counties.
“Proponents of this legislation want to believe that choosing not to face the legal liability and costs that come with ICE detainers is something only done in liberal enclaves: It’s not,” said ACLU of Florida’s Director of Public Policy Michelle Richardson. “Our report shows that law enforcement and elected leaders from every part of our state are making the smart decision to respect the Constitution, and to spare their taxpayers the legal liability of these unconstitutional holds. Members preparing to vote on HB 675 should look very closely at this list and consult with the sheriffs in their counties to find out what would happen back home before making a politically based decision in Tallahassee.”
Metz’ bill was to come before the entire House for a vote on Wednesday, but was postponed.
“If HB 675 becomes law, these counties will be damned if they do, damned if they don’t,” Richardson said. “Faced with the legal liabilities of unconstitutionally detaining someone on one hand, and the penalties piled on by this bill on the other, every police stop or jailhouse booking becomes a minefield for Florida police.”
Buckhorn’s office has not responded to FloridaPolitics.com’s request for comment.