On September 22, 2021, a federal judge ruled that sections of a 2019 Florida immigration enforcement law were racially motivated. The law generally banned so-called sanctuary cities, which is a city, county, or state that limits its cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in order to protect low-priority undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in 2019 as one of his administration’s priorities. His administration said it would appeal the ruling.
U.S. Southern District of Florida Judge Beth Bloom struck down portions of SB 168 that bans local and state officials from adopting “sanctuary” policies for undocumented immigrants and requires law enforcement agencies and officers to “use best efforts to support the enforcement of immigration law” when actively performing their duties. She also blocked a provision that enables local and state agencies to transport detainees to federal custody outside of their jurisdiction.
Judge Bloom repeatedly said that the law was racially motivated and that its supporters provided no evidence that such law was necessary to lower crime. Additionally, she said anti-immigrant hate groups such as Floridians for Immigration Enforcement guided the bill, citing numerous correspondence between the organization and staff members of State Senator Joe Gruters, who sponsored the bill.
The case began after the city of South Miami, the Florida Immigration Coalition, and other organizations filed a lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis in order to void the law. The plaintiffs’ witnesses testified that more people were victims of domestic violence because they were afraid of being deported if they involved the police. Others said undocumented immigrants did not access social services or healthcare clinics because of the same fear.
According to data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and federal data on ICE arrests, which was presented by the plaintiffs, approximately 73 percent of ICE arrests in Florida between 2015 and 2018 involved individuals with no criminal history or a record of minor offenses.
On the other hand, only 0.4 percent of these arrests involved individuals with serious criminal offenses, such as sexual assault and murder. Therefore, the bill sponsors’ claim that the law would improve public safety and reduce crime rates are not supported by statistical data, despite the increase in undocumented immigration.