Florida Legislature Kicks-Off Session With Attacks To The Safety of Immigrant Families

 

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Not even a full week has passed since Florida’s Legislative Session started, and the House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee already voted to pass a bill banning “sanctuary” cities or counties. House Bill 697 was approved yesterday afternoon with 9 votes in favor and 5 votes against. This bill is just one of a total of 9 Trump-inspired bills that have been filed this session to intensify the persecution of undocumented immigrants and refugees and shut down any safe spaces for immigrant families, from their homes and neighborhoods, to schools, churches and hospitals.

Falsely framed as a crack-down on “criminal immigrants” to make Florida safer, the majority of these bills open the door to legalizing racial profiling by law enforcement of millions of Floridians simply because of the color of their skin, their religion, their country of origin or their language. This will affect millions of Floridians and not only those who are undocumented.

HB697, sponsored by Rep. Larry Metz (R-Lake), has a Senate version sponsored by Senator Aaron Bean which has not been heard in committee yet. The rest of the Trump-inspired anti-immigrant, anti-refugee bills include:

  • CS/SB 120: Offenses by Aliens Unlawfully Present in the United States
  • HB 83: Offenses by Illegal Immigrants
  • SB 786/ HB 697: Federal Immigration Enforcement
  • SB 1358: Reentry into the State by Certain Persons
  • SB 82: Postsecondary Education Tuition and Fee Waivers
  • SB 1030: Background Screening of Refugees
  • CS/HB 427: Refugee Assistance Programs
  • CS/HB 17: Local Regulation Preemption

“Since Trump announced his candidacy last year, we’ve seen a spike in anti-immigrant bills comparable to 2011 when Governor Scott’s legislature tried to bring Arizona’s worst anti-immigrant laws to Florida. Back then, the bills were defeated after thousands of Floridians flooded the State Capitol to protest the bills, and the agricultural and business sectors raised the alarm of a potential economic crisis. Is that what our legislature wants to do again this session? Spend our time and our resources debating and approving bills that separate families and threaten our economy? How does that make Florida safer and create opportunities for working families struggling to make ends meet?” says Francesca Menes, Director of Policy from the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Fortunately, some legislators have understood that attacking immigrant and refugee families does not make our communities safer and that, instead, it increases the criminalization and stigmatization of other Floridians, not only the undocumented. The contributions of immigrants to our economy and our culture are greater when given an opportunity. This session, there are six proactive bills such as:

  • SB 1732/ HB 1341: Postsecondary Education Tuition and Fees
  • SB 1674/ HB 1407: Enforcement of Federal Laws
  • SB 184/ HB 1061: Driver Licenses and Identification Cards

“Senator Anitere Flores and Representative Jeanette Nunez know very well what happened in 2011 and since then have supported pro-immigrant bills. We look up to them to use their leadership in both chambers and do what’s right to protect Florida’s immigrant families,” says Ana Lamb from LULAC council 7250.