Florida OKs bill aimed at keeping immigrants out of state

Mar 9, 2022, 3:14 PM | Updated: 4:12 pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — All Florida government agencies would be barred from doing business with transportation companies that bring immigrants to the state who are in the country illegally under a bill sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday.

The bill is a priority for the Republican governor and an effort to to keep the federal government from sending people crossing the Mexican border illegally to Florida. DeSantis, who is running for reelection this year and is a potential 2024 presidential contender, has repeatedly criticized President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

The House voted 77-42 in favor of the bill, with Republicans saying illegal immigration needs to be dealt with and Democrats saying that the only reason for the bill is to boost DeSantis’ political ambitions and it plays into fears about immigrants.

“I came to America the correct way,” said Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby, who immigrated from England. “This is all about enforcement. This is all about stopping those people that are illegally bringing people … directly to Florida from being able to do that.”

Barnaby said immigrants being transported to states after crossing the Mexican border illegally “is nothing short of an invasion.”

Once signed by DeSantis, the bill will prohibit any government agency, state or local, from doing business with any airline, bus or other transportation company paid by the federal government to bring immigrants to Florida who are in the country illegally.

“Don’t give into this fearmongering, don’t give into this hate, don’t give into this treating people like they are not human beings. They are. They’re our brothers and sisters. Treat them decently, treat them with respect,” said Democratic Rep. Joe Geller.

Democratic Rep. Anna said the bill was politically motivated.

“This is another example of political rhetoric and campaigns masquerading as a bill,” she said. “This entire bill is a facade being used to boost up campaign coffers in 2022 and 2024, because I know the second this bill is signed by the governor, there will be a fundraising email coming out right after.”

Immigration has been a main talking point for Republicans attacking Biden, whose approval has dipped as the GOP seeks to take back the U.S. House during the 2022 midterm elections.

Republican Rep. Melony Bell said the bill is a matter of making the state safer. She said a constituent sent her a photo last week showing two buses dropping off immigrants in the country illegally.

“These people were left, put out on the street, no jobs, no food, no shelter,” she said. “Once they get here, there’s nothing for them to do. They get into crime, they start driving vehicles drunk, they kill off citizens.”

The legislation also expands on a bill that DeSantis signed into law in 2019 that would ban local government sanctuary polices and require local law enforcement to make their best effort to work with federal immigration enforcement authorities.

Parts of that law were struck down last year by a federal judge who repeatedly said the law was racially motivated and that supporters showed no evidence that it was needed to lower crime. The state appealed the decision and the matter remains unsettled.

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Florida OKs bill aimed at keeping immigrants out of state