In a political move that serves no other purpose than to appeal to Florida’s xenophobic Republican base, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Friday that bans sanctuary cities from the state.
SB 168 prohibits state and local governments from enacting “sanctuary policies” and requires them to abide by federal immigration detainer requests. DeSantis signed the bill into law in rural Okaloosa County, part of the Florida Panhandle, where the county’s nearly 200,000 residents are overwhelmingly white.
According to the Miami Herald, the bill’s signing ceremony “had the feel more of a crowded campaign rally than a typical bill signing,” with more than 300 spectators in attendance. Banning sanctuary cities, despite Florida not having any, was one of DeSantis’ top campaign promises, echoing the anti-immigrant vitriol of Donald Trump.
“Earlier this year, I made a promise that we would ban sanctuary cities in Florida and today we are delivering on that promise,” DeSantis said Friday. “I am proud to sign the bill presented to me by the Florida Legislature to uphold the rule of law and ensure that no city or county jurisdiction can get in the way of Florida’s cooperation with our federal partners to enforce immigration law. This is about public safety, not about politics. We must do everything within our power, and use all the tools available to us, to ensure that our communities are safe.”
The bill passed the state Senate by a vote of 22-18, and the House by 68-45.
In praising the signing, Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters, who sponsored SB 168, also played up the false and racist narrative that undocumented immigrants are a threat to community safety.
“This law ensures we do not treat non-citizens better than Americans and it will help ensure Floridians are not being victimized by illegal aliens. This legislation will ensure that our law enforcement agencies are able to cooperate with federal authorities and will get illegal criminals aliens off our streets,” Gruters said.
The Herald noted that Gruters used the bill’s signing to solicit campaign contributions online immediately afterward.
In response, the ACLU of Florida called SB 168 a “reckless expansion of state government and an affront to the democratic values we share.”
“The law is anti-immigrant, unconstitutional, inhumane, and hurts our families and communities,” the group tweeted.
Scott McCoy, of the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, said laws like SB 168 hurt immigrant communities because people will be less likely to report crimes to the police or cooperate in investigations, according to a statement reported by the Herald. He added that state Republicans were using “racial grievance to drive a wedge between Floridians.”
Trump weighed in on Twitter, writing that, “More and more states want to do this but their governors and leaders don’t have the courage to do so.” He falsely claimed that “people from California, & all over the land, are demanding that Sanctuary Cities be GONE.” He added: “No illegals, Drugs or Trafficking!”
Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani, a daughter of immigrants, wrote that she “could not help but notice how political the bill signing felt.” Someone in the audience, she added, even yelled about a six-week abortion ban.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who supported the bill, responded by tweeting, “It’s not political, it’s winning.” He added a snowflake emoji.