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Travis Hutson files bill to increase criminal penalties for undocumented Floridians

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Palm Coast Sen. Travis Hutson filed a bill on Wednesday that would create a separate, more severe class of penalties for Floridians who commit crimes while in the country illegally.

Hutson’s bill — SB 150 ––  would enhance the penalties for crimes that fall under one of several statutory categories of violent crimes, if the offense is committed by someone who is unlawfully present in the United States.

A first-degree misdemeanor assault charge, for instance, would carry the greater penalties of a third-degree felony under Hutson’s proposal. A first-degree felony such as aggravated manslaughter would become a life felony, making the offender ineligible for parole.

The bill’s introduction comes as the nation — particularly Hutson’s fellow travelers within the Republican Party — expresses sharp divides on issues of immigration both legal and illegal, exemplified by reactions to the nativist rhetoric of Donald Trump.

The move is in keeping with a recent trend for Hutson, who seems to have made immigration a major policy focus.

Earlier this month Hutson filed legislation, sponsored in the House by Doral state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, that would prohibit any U.S. resident subject to a final deportation order from entering the state of Florida, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Hutson sits on the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations subcommittee. He was not available for comment as of press time. 

Other measures sponsored by the freshman senator – who was elevated to the Legislature’s upper chamber in a special election after Sen. John Thrasher was appointment head of Florida State University – were referred to committee Wednesday.

Those bills related to legislative overrides of vetoed budget items and local governmental canvassing boards, respectively.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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