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Miami federal judge blocks Florida from enforcing ban on 'sanctuary cities'

Ana Ceballos, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge in Miami on Tuesday blocked Florida from enforcing a ban on so-called sanctuary cities, declaring portions of a law unconstitutional and tinged with “discriminatory motives.”

The judge’s ruling struck down a key portion of the 2019 law that prohibits local and state officials from adopting “sanctuary” policies for undocumented migrants, a main focus for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who vowed to ban “sanctuary cities” in Florida when running for governor in 2018 even though there were none in the state.

The judge also blocked the state from enforcing a provision in the law that requires law enforcement officers and agencies to “use best efforts to support the enforcement of federal immigration law” when they are acting within their official duties.

But the court allowed other provisions to stand, including one that required state and local law enforcement agencies to comply with immigration detainers — federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants past their release dates so that immigration agents can pick them up.

However, the judge blocked a provision that said local and state agencies could transport detainees who are subject to an immigration detainer to federal custody outside of their jurisdiction because it is “preempted by federal immigration law and is therefore unconstitutional.”

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the city of South Miami and other organizations, including the Florida Immigration Coalition, against DeSantis in an effort to strike down the law.

 

“The verdict validates what we said three years ago, Governor DeSantis pushed for a law that is not just racist, but unconstitutional,” said Antonio Tovar, a board member of both the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the Farmworkers Association of Florida, another group that joined the case.

Ruling calls out ‘racial animus’ of third-party groups

In her ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom weighed evidence and testimony that focused on how the law, also known as SB 168, was drafted and advanced by the Florida Legislature.

For instance, the court concluded Sen. Joe Gruters, the sponsor of the bill, who doubles as the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and his Senate staff ignored the “racial animus and discriminatory intent” espoused by third-party groups that helped draft and promote the bill during the legislative session.

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