Editorials

Leave the immigrant round-ups to the feds

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, right, is a suspect in a San Francisco shooting death.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, right, is a suspect in a San Francisco shooting death. AP

A Donald Trump-inspired anti-immigrant bill will be up for discussion Tuesday on the floor of the Florida House. Lawmakers should discuss it all they want, then stop this ill-advised legislation in its tracks.

House Bill 675, sponsored by Rep. Larry Metz, R-Lake County, would twist the arms of local governments, law-enforcement officials and school districts to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and — under penalty of stiff fines — report undocumented residents, including students and then detain them.

If enacted, the law would require Florida to penalize cities, counties and sheriffs that don’t cooperate up to $5,000 a day. In others words, local governments would be working for la migra.

Its anti-immigrant tone aside, this is not job of the localities, and their residents should not have to foot the bill for such enforcement.

The ACLU, WeCount!, the Florida Immigrant Coalition and other organizations are right to vehemently oppose the bill, saying it requires localities to comply with all immigration-related requests by the federal government, including requests to imprison someone without the judicial determination of probable cause required under the Fourth Amendment.

Imagine. Teachers could be forced to report undocumented students, local law enforcement would have to detain similar immigrants they encounter, even during a traffic stop. Then the rest of us would then pay to house them at, say, the county jail.

The bill would also prohibit cities and counties from passing local laws to create safe havens or “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants and authorize the attorney general to sue cities and fine them for not enforcing those rules.

Seven Florida counties, including Miami-Dade, have “sanctuary” policies that allow authorities limited cooperation with immigration authorities. And currently, local governments are not obligated or funded for immigrant round-ups, clearly the responsibility of the federal government.

Rep. Metz has said he sponsored House Bill 675 in response to the 2015 incident in San Francisco in which a young woman was fatally shot by a Mexican immigrant. The suspect had been released by the San Francisco County sheriff’s office, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him. The shooting made national news and helped fuel the early days of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Whether that sheriff’s office should have cooperated with the feds in this particular case is open to debate. However, Rep. Metz’s proposal is mean-spirited and overreaching. In addition to the cost it would impose on local governments, there’s potential legal liability, neither of which the state will not fund or the federal government reimburse. And, of course, the cost of shattered families is cruel and incalculable.

Miami-Dade commissioners last month unanimously passed a resolution opposing HB 675, a good warning shot.

Miami-Dade residents know from experience they’ll be stuck with the bill. Between 2011 and 2012, Miami-Dade said it spent over $1.6 million detaining individuals, monies not reimbursed by the federal government.

HB 675 is expected to pass the House. In the Senate, under the leadership of Miami Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the companion bill is expected to be skewered and then, let us hope, smothered for good measure.

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