State Politics

Following Trump, 2 Florida lawmakers also want to penalize ‘sanctuary’ cities

Protesters gather at the Miami-Dade government center on Jan. 27, 2017, to protest against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to remove the county’s label as a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants in the country illegally.
Protesters gather at the Miami-Dade government center on Jan. 27, 2017, to protest against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to remove the county’s label as a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants in the country illegally. el Nuevo Herald

As President Donald Trump’s administration cracks down on so-called “sanctuary” cities for undocumented immigrants, some Republican lawmakers in Florida aim to do the same this year.

State Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, told the Herald/Times that he and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, are drafting legislation that will seek to impose “consequences” on cities and counties “who say there are only select, certain federal laws they’re going to abide by.”

“We’re looking at financial penalties, yes,” Bean said when asked if the consequences potentially included withholding state funding from cities and counties deemed “sanctuaries” for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

“We’re also looking at removing the umbrella of your sovereign immunity for elected individuals, boards and constitutional officers,” Bean said — which would allow victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to then sue city and county officials if they don’t fully comply with enforcing federal immigration laws.

Bean pointed to the highly publicized case of Katie Steinle in San Francisco as an example. She was murdered in July 2015 by a Mexican laborer with a criminal record who had been deported five times and had been released from a local jail a couple of months before he shot Steinle.

“If that was in Florida, the sheriff would enjoy sovereign immunity,” Bean said. “So we’re looking at taking away sovereign immunity, so a family injured by an illegal has the chance to file a claim and hold them liable.”

A federal judge last month ruled Steinle’s parents couldn’t sue San Francisco and its former sheriff over the city’s sanctuary policy, CNN reported.

Bean said his and Metz’s bill could be filed as early as next week. The 2017 legislative session begins March 7.

This will be the second year Bean and Metz have tried to get legislation passed related to sanctuary cities. Last year, they proposed a bill that would have required local governments to detain undocumented immigrants and given the governor power to remove local elected officials who didn’t comply. That measure passed the House with Republican support, but it was never considered in the Senate.

Bean and Metz’s proposal this year will likely face similar hurdles — as well as resistance from Democrats, in particular.

The issue of sanctuary cities has made national headlines since Trump signed an executive order threatening to cut federal grant funding to counties and cities that don’t fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Soon after that order, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez — who had previously resisted the county’s label as a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants — ordered county jails to comply with federal immigration detention requests. Gimenez’s decision sparked two major protests at county hall since Friday.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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