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  • Writer's pictureRathee Law Firm

FLORIDA'S IMMIGRATION BILL: ANALYZING THE MOTIVATIONS AND REACTIONS


INTRODUCTION


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican considered a potential contender for the 2024 presidential race, is promoting a comprehensive immigration bill that aims to curb illegal immigration and allocate millions of dollars to his migrant transportation program. The bill, SB 1718, is supported by the GOP-controlled legislature and is expected to pass before the session ends on April 30.


BILL OVERVIEW


The immigration bill proposes to:


  • Prevent Florida local governments from using taxpayer dollars to issue identification cards to individuals who cannot provide proof of citizenship.

  • Invalidate driver’s licenses issued by other states to those who cannot prove their citizenship.

  • Require Medicaid-accepting hospitals to ask about patient citizenship status on intake forms.

  • Remove a provision allowing undocumented law school graduates admission to The Florida Bar, previously signed into law by former Florida Governor Rick Scott.

  • Increase penalties for human trafficking-related offenses to a second-degree felony.

  • Mandate DNA samples from individuals in law enforcement custody who are subject to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement immigration retainers, for submission to a statewide DNA database.

  • Allocate $12 million to DeSantis’ migrant flight program, which gained national attention in September after flying 50 migrants, primarily from Venezuela, from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.


DESANTIS' MOTIVATION


DeSantis has utilized immigration to criticize President Joe Biden's policies and appeal to the conservative base. He accuses Biden of creating a crisis at the southern border and not enforcing immigration laws. DeSantis claims Florida is being "overrun" by illegal immigrants, and his migrant flight program is intended to expose Democratic leaders' hypocrisy regarding open borders.


DeSantis is positioning himself as a Republican Party leader and potential successor to former President Donald Trump. He has adopted Trump's rhetoric and style on various issues, including immigration, Covid-19, voting rights, and social media censorship. Trump has praised and endorsed DeSantis, calling him "a great governor" and "a friend of mine."


By passing this immigration bill, DeSantis aims to bolster his national profile and increase his chances of winning the Republican nomination in 2024. He also hopes to rally his base and secure his re-election as governor in 2022.


IMMIGRATION BILLS PASSED BY OTHER STATES


Florida is not alone in implementing its own immigration policies. Other states have enacted laws that either support or oppose the federal government's approach to immigration. Examples include:


  • Texas, which has sued the Biden administration over immigration policies and deployed law enforcement officers and National Guard troops to assist with border security.

  • California, which declared itself a sanctuary state, limited cooperation with federal immigration authorities, and provided benefits and services to undocumented immigrants.

  • New York, which allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and has blocked federal access to its motor vehicle database.

  • Arizona, which requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone stopped or arrested if there is reasonable suspicion of illegal presence in the country. Different views on immigration and varying interests are at stake, as well as differing levels of authority and autonomy under the U.S. Constitution. Some of these laws have faced legal challenges or have been struck down, while others have been upheld or are still pending.


CULTURAL WAR IMPLICATIONS


The immigration bill is also part of the broader cultural wars involving right-leaning politicians and media outlets. These cultural wars encompass issues like race, gender, religion, education, media, and patriotism, fueled by polarization, misinformation, and resentment.


DeSantis and his allies present themselves as defenders of American values and traditions against perceived threats like multiculturalism, socialism, and cancel culture. They accuse opponents of being radical, unpatriotic, and elitist, using fear-mongering and scapegoating tactics to rally their supporters.


The immigration bill exemplifies DeSantis' attempt to appeal to his base by adopting a hardline stance on an issue that divides Americans ideologically. He is also attempting to divert attention from radical and unpopular views on social insurance and the welfare state, which he has tried to conceal or downplay as governor and former congressman.


PUBLIC REACTION TO THE BILL


The bill has generated considerable controversy and criticism from various groups and individuals who oppose it on legal, moral, or practical grounds. Some reactions include:


  • A group of 80 health workers urging Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner to vote against the bill, claiming it would create a culture of fear and deter undocumented people from seeking medical care.

  • The Florida Immigrant Coalition, a nonprofit organization advocating for immigrants' rights, organized a rally outside the Capitol to protest the bill, calling it "anti-immigrant" and "unconstitutional."

  • The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida condemned the bill as "a blatant attempt to undermine the rule of law and sow division in our communities."

  • The Florida Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill, stating it would hurt the state's economy and workforce.

  • The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops released a letter opposing the bill, claiming it would violate human dignity and harm families. Conversely, some groups and individuals have expressed support for the bill, stating it would protect public safety and uphold the law. Some reactions include:

  • The Federation for American Immigration Reform praised the bill as "a model for other states to follow" and thanked DeSantis for his leadership.

  • The Florida Sheriffs Association endorsed the bill, asserting it would help them cooperate with federal authorities and prevent crime.

  • The Republican Party of Florida applauded the bill as "a common-sense approach to addressing illegal immigration" and "a win for Floridians."

  • Floridians for Immigration Enforcement expressed support for the bill, saying it would deter illegal immigrants from coming to Florida and save taxpayers' money.

  • The Conservative Partnership Institute commended the bill as "a bold step to protect Floridians from the Biden administration's disastrous border policies" and "a courageous example for other states to follow."


CONCLUSION

The immigration bill is a highly divisive issue in Florida politics, reflecting DeSantis' ambition to position himself as a national leader of the Republican Party and a potential presidential candidate in 2024. It also highlights the varying views and interests of diverse groups and individuals in Florida and across the country. The bill's fate will depend on its progress through the legislative process and how it is challenged or defended in the courts. Ultimately, the impact of the bill will be determined by how it affects the lives and rights of millions of people living in or coming to Florida


REFERENCES:

  1. Florida GOP on verge of passing Ron DeSantis-backed immigration bill. (2023, April 27). NBC News. Retrieved from: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/florida-gop-ron-desantis-immigration-bill-rcna81110

  2. GOP lawmakers revive DeSantis' immigration crackdown — with some compromises. (2023, April 27). MSN News. Retrieved from https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/gop-lawmakers-revive-desantis-immigration-crackdown-with-some-compromises/ar-AA1aiel8

  3. ACLU of Florida statement on immigration bill. (2023, April 19). American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Retrieved from https://www.aclufl.org/en/press-releases/aclu-florida-statement-immigration-bill

  4. Florida Chamber of Commerce opposition to immigration bill. (2023, April 21). Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved from https://www.orlandosentinel.com/politics/os-ne-florida-chamber-commerce-opposes-immigration-bill-20230421-2e5h6yvppzft5k6j5u6w5g6f5u-story.html

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