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Florida may cut ties with companies that transport undocumented immigrants into the state

Florida's proposed immigration enforcement bill targets transportation companies
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Florida's proposed immigration enforcement bill targets transportation companies

State and local governments may soon be banned from doing business with transportation companies that knowingly bring undocumented immigrants into Florida. New legislation (SB 1808) would add to Florida’s law banning so-called sanctuary cities.

“The unfettered influx of illegal aliens has dangerous consequences,” said Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The sanctuary cities law was ruled unconstitutional and is now being appealed by the state. That didn’t stop Bean from filing an immigration enforcement bill that opponents say is also unconstitutional.

“Over the last 12 months, at least 78 federally chartered airplanes have brought illegal aliens into the Jacksonville International Airport that we know about," Bean said. "It's our best guess because the federal government does not inform the state of Florida about these flights, where or when they're going to occur.”

Bean says the flights – full of children - are happening overnight.

"Is there anything inherently wrong with the transport of illegal aliens, undocumented people, to different states (when) they have to go somewhere?" Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton asked. "Is there anything wrong with them coming to Florida, and where do they go once they get here?”

"We don't know who these people are, and the crimes of which they're committing is very real...We think it's time to say no to the federal government running this human smuggling operation," Bean responded. "Once we say no, there should be a better way. We need enforcement at the border. But when they come to Florida in the dead of night, truly, that's not the way to carry out an immigration policy.”

During public testimony before the committee, all of the speakers were there to oppose the bill.

“I am the daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants who fled from the terrors of war. Over 20 years ago, my family escaped," said Yarehz Mendez-Zumora from Pembroke Pines. "They came to Florida with the hope of stability and peace. My grandmother worked late nights cleaning shopping centers. My mother cleaned houses. My father was a butcher in a local grocery store, and they were all undocumented because war does not care. Famine and violence do not care about a line.”

After hearing from a string of public speakers, Polsky called the legislation impractical.

“There are two airlines that come to Tallahassee. If they decided to transport children to a detention center in Florida, then they couldn't be available to a Florida sports team, to any of us (legislators) to fly," Polsky said. "How does that make any sense? Who is going to enforce this? How are we going to know? How is the airline going to see the immigration status of people that they are carrying?”

“First thing that jumped out at me is that these flights are coming in under the cover of darkness, and my question is why?" asked Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers. "If you've got nothing to hide, then why are you sending them in the middle of the night?”

Rodrigues called America’s federal border policy a disaster. “Illegal immigrants are being dispersed around the country so that attention is not drawn to that, and there are effects when that happens," Rodrigues said, referring to examples Bean gave of crimes being committed.

Bean’s bill also requires law enforcement agencies that operate county detention facilities to enter into an agreement with U-S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agreements permit state and local law enforcement officers to arrest and detain individuals who are born outside of the U-S and have criminal charges or convictions.

The bill passed the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote.

Copyright 2022 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Gina Jordan