Speaker Richard Corcoran wants to ban Florida's nonexistent 'sanctuary cities'

As the legislative session starts next week, House Speaker Richard Corcoran is making one of his first priorities the passage of a bill that would ban "sanctuary cities" in Florida. 

"Sanctuary cities are a threat to the safety of our communities," Corcoran tweeted on Wednesday. "On week one of session the Florida House will pass a bill that will enforce the rule of law."

Florida, though, doesn't have any "sanctuary cities." That's right, folks – the state's top leaders plan to make us "safer" by eliminating a nonexistent threat.

"Sanctuary city" is a vague term for a municipal government that doesn't detain undocumented immigrants for immigration officials, reasoning that it would be unconstitutional to hold people in jail for federal authorities without a warrant. Immigrant advocates say sanctuary city policies help build trust between the community and local law enforcement by encouraging undocumented people who are crime victims to cooperate with police.

Riding a wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric and xenophobia during the campaign trail, President Donald Trump released an executive order earlier this year saying the administration would punish sanctuary cities and counties by taking away federal funding. Miami-Dade County, which had previously declined detainer requests, caved into Trump's threats – Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered county jails to comply with federal officials. The Miami Herald reports that since the change, Miami-Dade jails have turned over 436 people to federal agents. The county is also being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for detaining people for deportation proceedings without a warrant, a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution. In November, a federal judge in California blocked Trump's executive order on so-called sanctuary cities, agreeing with local municipalities that it deprived them of their constitutional rights and violated the separation of powers doctrine.

The draconian proposal backed by Corcoran that's currently in the Florida House, HB 9, is basically a reiteration of past legislation against "sanctuary cities" that has died in the Senate for the past two sessions. Aside from requiring local and state agencies to comply with federal immigration authorities and barring sanctuary policies, the bill threatens jurisdictions that don't comply with a $5,000 per day fine and no state grant funding for five years (that includes state universities and colleges). Elected officials who violate the law can be suspended and removed from office. The ACLU of Florida says the measure essentially requires law enforcement officers to "demand proof of immigration status from every single person they arrest," which advocates say could lead to racial profiling. 

"HB 9 would force state entities … and employees thereof, into an impossible situation," the ACLU said in a memo opposing the bill. "They must choose between: honoring ICE detainer requests and potentially being held liable for damages for constitutional violations – in addition to harming public safety – or not honoring ICE detainer requests, and facing a range of harsh financial penalties and sanctions, including personal injury damages."

Corcoran, a Republican who is running for governor, said in a column for the Tampa Bay Times that under his watch, he wouldn't let Florida follow the way of California and blamed sanctuary policies for the killing of a San Francisco woman by an undocumented immigrant who had previously been deported. A jury recently acquitted the suspect in Kate Steinle's case after his defense attorneys argued he killed her in a freak accident.

"This anti-American phenomenon must be stopped, and here in Florida we’re doing something about it," Corcoran wrote in the Times.

The bill is total nonsense because this "anti-American phenomenon" doesn't even occur in Florida, but it's likely deeper than that for Corcoran – it scores cheap points with with far-right bigots who like to vilify all undocumented immigrants. The only thing "anti-American" here is Corcoran potentially ruining human lives and putting Florida in violation of constitutional laws for a political pass.

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