Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed a bill passed earlier this year that requires local governments to work with the feds to enforce immigration laws.
The legislation began as an anti-“sanctuary cities” measure, though critics noted officially there were no sanctuary cities in Florida to begin with.
Now, the “Rule of Law Adherence Act” (SB 168), carried by Sarasota Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters, will “require state and local governments and law enforcement agencies … to support and cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.”
The immigration issue presented a flashpoint throughout the 2019 Legislative Session, with protesters at committee meetings and Democrats doing everything possible to kill the bill, though numbers ultimately were not on their side.
The Florida Democratic Party and immigration organizations lambasted the measure once again on Friday, with one group even saying it will “terrorize” immigrant families.
But DeSantis was greeted with nothing but resounding cheers at the Okaloosa County Commission building, a world away from the controversy over the bill.
The Governor noted that when he was campaigning, he promised to “deliver on promises.”
“One of the promises [was] to do whatever we can on the state level to fight illegal immigration, specifically sanctuary cities,” DeSantis said.
That’s because sanctuary cities, contends DeSantis, create “law-free zones.”
“When I sign this bill,” he added, “… in Florida that will not happen.”
“We ran on this,” DeSantis said. “A lot of the stuff we ran on, people couldn’t get done … we got it done.
“This bill is simple … it’s our state’s policy that we work with the federal government.”
“We’re going to cooperate to ensure the safety of our cities and communities,” DeSantis said.
The bill marshals 287(g) agreements, if a non-citizen is arrested. Those agreements offer avenues for federal reimbursement for detainment.
DeSantis recognized Gruters and House sponsor Cord Byrd before calling up U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a congressional ally of his and President Donald Trump.
Gaetz, in remarks that touched on a number of topics over many minutes, noted the huge local interest in the bill signing that required the location to be moved to the commission building. He lauded DeSantis for being the “boldest, most popular governor in America,” as well as supporting law enforcement and public safety.
Gaetz noted that 5,000 illegal immigrants show up at the southern border every day, and they are dispersed by a “catch and release” policy.
“They get a plane ticket anywhere in the country,” Gaetz said to groans. “And you pay for it!”
Gruters said this was a “historic day.”
“Florida is at the forefront of the entire country when it comes to passing meaningful legislation,” Gruters said. “This truly was a team effort … 244 amendments … had to pass it twice on the Senate floor and three times on the House floor.”
“It almost came to a standstill,” Gruters said. “Then the Governor got involved … at the end, when it really mattered, he engaged.”
“We passed the strongest ban on sanctuary cities in the entire country,” Gruters added, noting the bill is “about criminal illegal aliens who have broken other laws.”
Rep. Byrd said the bill was “about recognizing American citizenship.”
“We kept hearing opponents of the bill talk about illegal aliens,” Byrd said.
He added that the bill was about putting citizens first.
A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.