Sep 22, 2021 - Politics

Federal judge: Florida ban on sanctuary cities racially motivated


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down parts of a Florida law aimed at banning local governments from establishing sanctuary city policies, arguing in part that the law is racially motivated and that it has the support of hate groups.

Why it matters: In a 110-page ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom said the law — signed and championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis — violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it was adopted with discriminatory motives.

The big picture: Republicans in states across the country have prioritized banning sanctuary cities — municipalities that refuse to hold undocumented immigrants in criminal custody, block immigration agents from working in county jails or deny federal authorities access to immigrants' records.

  • At least 11 states have adopted policies banning such cities, per Reuters.

Details: The state had pushed the law — SB 168 — as a public safety measure. But Bloom rejected that argument, saying it was not supported by crime statistics or other evidence.

The judge also objected to advocacy groups that she said had an influence in crafting the law, like Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, which she said "has been labeled as an anti-immigrant racialist group."

  • “Allowing anti-immigrant hate groups that overtly promote xenophobic, nationalist, racist ideologies to be intimately involved in a bill’s legislative process is a significant departure from procedural norms,” Bloom wrote.
  • “This involvement strongly suggests that the Legislature enacted SB 168 to promote and ratify the racist views of these advocacy groups.”

Bloom said the law would likely disproportionately impact Latino and Black people in Florida by expanding the scope of policing in a state that has historically applied laws unequally.

  • "These discriminatory motives are made evident from the historical and ongoing pattern of racial discrimination by law enforcement and the growing reliance on an immigrant threat narrative to justify the enactment of anti-immigrant legislation across the nation," the judge wrote.

Yes, but: The judge did approve some provisions of the law, including a requirement that local law enforcement complies with requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people beyond their release date so they can be picked up by federal agents.

What's next: DeSantis' office said Wednesday it will appeal the ruling, per ABC News.


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