Immigration groups file suit to block sanctuary city ban

Published: Jul. 16, 2019 at 5:47 PM CDT
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A coalition of immigrant advocacy groups asked a federal court to block the state’s new sanctuary city ban in a lawsuit filed Tuesday. The suit comes less than three weeks after the state’s ban on sanctuary cities became law.

The attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are leading the challenge. Scott McCoy with the SPLC said the law is fundamentally unconstitutional.

“It’s unconstitutional because it is preempted and foreclosed and conflicts with federal immigration law, which is where immigration law rests,” said McCoy.

The suit asks for the law to be temporarily blocked while the case makes its way through the court system, arguing immigrant communities face immediate harm.

“People who are not documented are going to be in the shadows even more,” said McCoy. "They're going to be distrustful of law enforcement and that's not going to serve public safety.”

Supporters of the legislation have challenged critics’ concerns, asserting undocumented immigrants only need to worry if they’ve committed a crime.

Senate sponsor Joe Gruters told us in May the goal of the law is to ensure compliance with federal immigration detainers.

“To make sure that these bad criminals are held up and are detained when required,” said Gruters.

But the lawsuit alleges the law goes further. It specifically points to a line that directs law enforcement to, "Use best efforts to support the enforcement of federal immigration law".

McCoy said the vague language could lead to racial profiling because police won’t know exactly what is expected of them.

A similar law passed in Texas was challenged and upheld by a federal appellate court. However, McCoy said Florida’s sanctuary city ban lacks certain protections to mitigate racial profiling that were present in the Texas law.

“If a local law enforcement officer sees a brown person… there’s an increased likelihood that under this kind of a law, they’re going to approach that person not necessarily because they were doing something wrong, but because they’re being racially profiled,” said McCoy.

The law partially went into effect on July 1, but the enforcement side of the ban doesn’t take effect until October.

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