On January 8, in an inauguration ceremony on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee, and with much pomp and fanfare, Republican former Congressman Ron DeSantis was sworn in as Florida’s 46th governor. His inaugural address, like many of his speeches on the campaign trail, promised real and sweeping improvements to the enforcement of immigration law in the Sunshine State. But now comes the hard part: actually turning those promises into reality.
Summing up his common-sense positions on immigration issues, then-candidate DeSantis tweeted back in July, “[t]here’s NOT going to be any sanctuary cities in Florida when I’m Governor!” and ”[c]heap foreign labor is not an excuse to let lawlessness prevail in the sunshine state. We want people who come LEGALLY!”
Bills are now filed in the state legislature to make good on those promises. He needs to publicly get behind them and push them to the hilt if he’s actually going to make it happen.
Getting rid of sanctuary cities wasn’t a hypothetical promise, since in a May 2018 survey, FAIR identified 15 sanctuary cities and counties in Florida. Since then at least one more, Orlando, has added itself to that number. Senate Bill (SB) 168, sponsored by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), and House Bill (HB) 527, sponsored by Representative Cord Byrd (R- Jacksonville Beach), would ban sanctuary policies statewide, not just by cities and counties, but also by state agencies such as public universities. They would also allow victims to sue sanctuaries if harmed by illegal aliens due to their policies. And they would specifically say adopting such policies could be grounds for suspension of public officials by the governor.
As for ensuring Florida has a legal workforce, probably the most effective way to do that would be requiring every employer in the state to the use the federal E-Verify system, which instantly checks employees’ work authorization and is free to employers, employees, and the state. That’s exactly what House Bill (HB) 89 by Rep. Thad Altman(R-Melbourne/Indialantic) and SB 164 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville/Fernandina Beach) would do.
Both as a candidate and now as governor, DeSantis outlined broad principles that are highly encouraging, but so far he hasn’t actually come out for these particular bills. So respectfully, the sooner, the better, Governor.
His support could mean all the difference. Hundreds of bills will be filed in advance of the legislature’s March 5-May 3 regular session, and lawmakers need to know he considers them priorities, ideally so they’re heard in committee meetings already happening in January and February. There will be plenty of opposition, of course, but far more bills simply die from inertia and inattention than from opposition.
Governor DeSantis made immigration enforcement a big part of his campaign. He can fulfill the promises he made. But he won’t be able to do it alone. Floridians need to keep their eyes on Tallahassee in the coming months, lend him their support, and keep the pressure on their legislators.