Reacting to the Donald Trump administration’s hardline policy on immigration — which has included threats to withhold federal grants from jurisdictions that act as “sanctuaries” — more than 100 mayors from around the country signed onto a letter to Congress calling on it to revisit and pass comprehensive reform legislation.
Among those signing the letter are Tallahassee Mayor and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
The letter calls on Congress to enact legislation that would strengthen the country’s borders while assuring that local and state law enforcement remains focused on community policing; establishes a streamlined visa process to bring in seasonal, agricultural, lesser-skilled and high skilled workers; provides a uniform system of employment verification and implements a framework that allows the undocumented to come out of the shadows.
“In the absence of federal immigration reform, mayors and their cities continue to seek strategies to protect the safety of all of their residents while ensuring that local law enforcement is focused on community policing,” reads the letter, dated Friday, April 7.
In his first week in office, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at creating more detention centers, added thousands of Border Patrol agents and promised to withhold federal funds from what are known as sanctuary cities — municipalities which do not comply with federal immigration laws.
Neither Tampa nor Tallahassee are officially considered “sanctuary cities,” but both Democratic mayors have criticized Trump for his stance on how local law enforcement should handle undocumented they come in contact with.
“We are not Customs; we are not I.C.E. We are not searching people who have chosen to live here and have not yet got citizenship,” Buckhorn said after the president’s executive order was declared. “That’s not something that we believe in, and not something that I support.”
Gillum also lashed out when informed about Trump’s executive order, saying it was “not a projection of strength, but a reflection of weakness” and calling it “inconsistent with our highest values.”
Florida sheriffs are also fighting back against claims by the Trump administration that they are not cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security published a list of Florida counties accused of refusing to detain undocumented people.
But the sheriffs say that ICE officers have sent requests for detainers to sheriffs and jails asking them to hold someone in custody after their local criminal cases are closed.
“While the illegal immigration debate is complex and emotional, I swore to follow the law, even when it’s inconvenient,” Pinellas County Bob Gualtieri wrote in an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times last week. “The federal government also must follow the law even when it’s inconvenient, and it is wrong for the federal government to ask sheriffs to ignore the U.S. Constitution and the law that we are sworn to uphold by illegally keeping people in our jails.”
The other Florida mayors who signed on to the letter are Joe Kilsheimer from Apopka; Derrick Henry from Daytona Beach; Joy Cooper from Hallandale Beach; William Capote from Palm Bay and Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis.
Their signatures on the letter come at the same time that there is a bill floating in the Florida Legislature this spring that would compel local goverments to support enforcement of federal immigration law or face stiff penalties. The bill sponsored by Groveland Republican Representative Larry Metz (HB 697) calls on state and local entities, as well as law enforcement agencies to comply with the enforcement of federal immigration law 90 days after the law goes into effect.
If they don’t comply, among the penalties include the threat of automatic suspension and removal from office for elected state officials accused of violating sanctuary prohibition policy.