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Florida to appeal federal judge’s ruling declaring ‘sanctuary city’ ban unconstitutional

Florida State Capitol Buildings In Tallahassee Florida
The old and new Florida State Capitol buildings in downtown Tallahassee, Florida. (iStock)

Florida to appeal federal judge’s ruling declaring ‘sanctuary city’ ban unconstitutional

September 23, 10:00 AM September 23, 10:00 AM

Florida will appeal a federal judge’s injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing its two-year-old “sanctuary cities” ban.

U.S. Southern District of Florida Judge Beth Bloom Tuesday released a 110-page ruling declaring portions 2019’s Senate Bill 168 are unconstitutional and that the measure was adopted by the state’s Republican-dominated Legislative with “discriminatory motives.”

Bloom’s ruling comes nearly nine months after a six-day trial concluded in January to hear challenges filed in July 2019 by a bevy of plaintiffs, including the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Farmworker Association of Florida and city of South Miami.

The opinion charts SB 126’s advance through the Legislature amid an “immigrant threat narrative” and cites influence by conservative anti-immigration groups, such as Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, who Bloom said developed the bill with sponsor, Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who also chairs of the Florida Republican Party Committee.

The “totality of the relevant facts present significant evidence, both direct and circumstantial, of the Legislature’s discriminatory motives in enacting SB 168,” she wrote. “The court finds that plaintiffs have proven by a preponderance of the evidence that SB 168 has discriminatory or disparate effects on racial and ethnic minorities, and these discriminatory effects were both foreseeable and known to the Legislature at the time of SB 168’s enactment.”

DeSantis’ office said the state will appeal Bloom’s ruling, calling her an “Obama judge” appointed in 2014 under former Democratic President Barack Obama.

“We disagree with the ruling of the Obama judge and we expect to win on appeal,” DeSantis’ Communications Director Taryn Penske told reporters.

Gruters told the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times that Bloom was “misled” into issuing an opinion “not based on facts.”

“This bill was always about public safety and ensuring that illegal aliens are not treated better than Americans when it comes to the judicial system,” he said. “I look forward to this ruling being overturned.”

Florida has never had a “sanctuary city,” but DeSantis made it a priority for lawmakers to ensure local governments could not enact “sanctuary” polices to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.

SB 168 was adopted after lengthy, combative committee and floor debates in partisan 22-18 Senate and 68-45 House votes.

Under SB 168, local jails and state prisons must hold an undocumented immigrant charged or convicted of a crime for 48 hours past their release dates to give federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement [ICE] agents time to collect and deport them.

Under the law, the governor can initiate “judicial proceedings” against local officials who do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities, endorse “sanctuary city policies” or implement “sanctuary jurisdictions.”

Immigrant advocates and Democrats cheered Bloom’s ruling.

“The verdict validates what we said three years ago, Gov. DeSantis pushed for a law that is not just racist, but unconstitutional,” Florida Immigrant Coalition and Farmworkers Association of Florida board member Antonio Tovar told the Miami Herald.

“This ruling is a victory for Florida’s families and our constitutional rights. As Democrats said time and time again, SB168 undermines the safety of all Floridians, and our right to local control,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, calling on DeSantis and “my Republican colleagues” to not pass “unconstitutional laws in partnership with known far-right hate-groups.”

“The law was rooted in incendiary rhetoric painting a false narrative about immigrants being more dangerous than the general population, when in actuality, the opposite is true as immigrants are markedly less like to engage in criminal activity than native-born citizens,” said Rep. Dotie Joseph, D- Miami. “As an immigrant and attorney myself, I want to reaffirm that immigrants are people too and should not be mistreated based on their race or national origin.”

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