In lawsuit challenging Florida Senate Bill 168, judge permanently blocks a critical transportation provision of the legislation
MIAMI – United States District Judge Beth Bloom has issued an order blocking Florida law enforcement agencies from transporting persons in their custody outside of their jurisdiction for the purpose of handing them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The order comes just weeks before trial in the City of South Miami, et al. v. Ron DeSantis, et al. case, scheduled for January 4-7 and tentatively January 11.
The case was filed by a coalition of immigrant and civil rights organizations in 2019 after Florida passed Senate Bill 168, which prohibits sanctuary policies and requires local police to act as ICE agents and comply with detainer requests. In her order, Judge Bloom found the transportation provision of S.B. 168 preempted by federal law and thus unconstitutional.
The plaintiff organizations include the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF), WeCount!, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Hope Community Center, QLatinx, Westminster Presbyterian United Church, The Guatemalan-Maya Center, Inc., and the Family Action Network Movement. The suit was filed by attorneys with the Community Justice Project, INC., the Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
"We celebrate that even before going to trial, a provision of S.B. 168, the entanglement of local police in transporting detained people for ICE, has been struck down as unconstitutional,” said Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director of FLIC. “We look forward to arguing how S.B. 168, motivated by racism, is harmful not just to the families targeted, but also to our democracy, our safety, and our budgets."
“Our members have been on the frontlines, pushing back against our state’s growing collaboration with ICE and the white supremacist agenda of hate groups like FAIR and FLIMEN,” said Oscar Londoño, Executive Director of WeCount!. “We look forward to trial and to proving that S.B. 168 is discriminatory and unconstitutional, and has no place in Florida.”
Antonio Tovar, outgoing Executive Director of FWAF, recounted that, “We fought this bill before becoming law because Florida’s economy depends on working immigrants and visitors, and its implementation only encourages profiling people by authorities. We are happy to see the judicial system starting to agree with us.”
“We are encouraged by the judge's decision that the transportation provision is unconstitutional,” said Laura Pichardo-Cruz, Executive Director of the Hope CommUnity Center. “At the heart of Hope's work is the protection and celebration of the immigrant community. We are confident that the evidence at trial will reveal that S.B. 168 is unconstitutional and exists primarily to vilify, scapegoat, and target that very community.”
“It’s our communities, not ICE, who hold the solutions to public safety,” said Oliver Torres, a Senior Outreach Paralegal for the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “The Court’s order is a step in the right direction and we’re eager to enter trial knowing that we can improve the safety and well-being of our communities by ending Florida’s entanglement with ICE.”
In the upcoming trial, the Plaintiffs and advocates will argue that S.B. 168 violates the Equal Protection Clause and is discriminatory in both its intent and impact.
Judge Bloom also denied both Defendants’ and Plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgement. In doing so, Judge Bloom commented on the Plaintiffs’ evidence that anti-immigrant groups like Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) were involved in the drafting of S.B. 168.
“Unsurprisingly, the issues of whether controversial groups like FLIMEN, FAIR, and CIS participated in drafting and developing SB 168, and to what extent, are among the most contentious in this litigation,” Judge Bloom wrote in her order. “Moreover, despite Defendants’ representations to the contrary, Plaintiffs offer a wide array of evidence that, at the very least, raises reasonable inferences that these organizations were actively involved in drafting, editing, and reviewing SB 168 leading up to its enactment.”
The SPLC classifies CIS and FAIR as anti-immigrant hate groups, and FLIMEN as an anti-immigrant group. S.B. 168 targets Black and brown individuals based on their race and national origin, in addition to eroding trust between communities and law enforcement.