(Updated) As state lawmakers move closer to passing legislation that could cause more undocumented immigrants to get detained and possibly deported, a coalition of civil rights and immigrant rights organizations has issued a “travel alert” to people traveling to Florida.
“Florida lawmakers need to realize that there will be consequences for attacking our families,” says Thomas Kennedy with the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “The world is watching Florida right now, and what we do next as a state will determine whether people will still want to visit us and if industry leaders still feel comfortable doing business with us.”
The proposal in the Florida Legislature would mandate that all local government and law enforcement agencies work with agencies like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to determine the legal status of everyone they arrest.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida warns that local governments are opening themselves up to potential legal and financial liabilities by working with ICE’s “flawed detainer system” if the legislation passes.
The group released a report last month showing that in just two years after agreeing to work with ICE, Miami-Dade County records showed that 420 people listed as U.S. citizens had false detainer requests issued against them. There are currently two lawsuits involving U.S. citizens in South Florida who were incorrectly labeled as undocumented.
“ICE’s broken detainer system has wrongfully disrupted the lives and families of Floridians,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. “If either SB 168 and HB 527 become law, then we’d find this disruption occurring on a statewide level. Forcing Florida law enforcement agencies to comply with ICE detainers only exposes themselves to damages liability for constitutional violations and threatens the civil rights of all Floridians. The Constitution guarantees that every person should have due process and the right to equal treatment, regardless of their citizenship.”
The coalition has also issued information on what it says would be the negative economic impact of the proposed legislation. The groups say they are advising corporations doing business in Florida “of these risks as well as the increased likelihood of constitutional violations of their clients traveling to the state.”
The Senate bill is sponsored by Republican Joe Gruters of Sarasota, who is also chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. On Tuesday he criticized the travel alert on Twitter, writing, “This is race baiting and it is pushing a false narrative on reality.”
— Joe Gruters (@JoeGruters) April 9, 2019
In addition to the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the ACLU of Florida, other groups issuing the travel alert include Faith in Florida, Family Action Network Movement, FL Student Power, Farmworkers Association of Florida, Mi Familia, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida and WeCount!