By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
March 11, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- After years of stalling, immigration reform is getting a hearing in the Capitol. Legislation to require local sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials appears to be on the fast track.
Advocates have been fighting immigration reform at the State Capitol for almost a decade. Each year, reforms have failed but, this year, legislation requiring local law enforcement to hold immigrants with federal detainers for at least 48 hours is gaining traction.
“This is about criminal, illegal aliens who are violating our laws,” said Senate Sponsor Joe Gruters.
The House has always supported a ban on sanctuary cities, but what has changed this year is a Senate that is less moderate and a governor who is pushing hard to get the bill on his desk.
Governor Ron DeSantis has campaigned on immigration reform and made it the centerpiece in both his inaugural and State of the State addresses.
“We not allow someone here illegally to commit criminal misconduct,” said DeSantis.
The change of political winds has immigration advocates concerned.
“We really should be focused on how to pull our communities together. Focus on economic opportunities,” said Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez.
Florida State student Nataly Chaco Lopez says her parents were reluctant to drive her to college for fear of being stopped.
“It means that every time a loved one gets behind the wheel, you get scared. It means freaking out every time your mom texts you, 'call me,' because that call could change your life forever,” said Lopez.
Sen. Gruters calls the fears 'nonsense.'
“There is a lot of fear mongering going on and this bill is about focusing on what’s right for the citizens,” said Gruters.
The sponsor contends the legislation will only apply to up to 4,600 people who are in state prison or county jails.
29 counties are currently cooperating with immigration policies. 12 counties and three cities have policies against cooperating that would be reversed by the legislation.