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SPLC: Florida’s Failed Challenge to ICE Guidance Is State’s Latest Effort to Demonize Immigrants

MIAMI – A federal judge in the Middle District of Florida on Thursday denied the state of Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the Biden administration's interim Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance that shifts enforcement focus to non-citizens who pose a risk to national security, border security, or public safety.  

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody promised to appeal the decision to the Eleventh Circuit. Florida, like Texas and Louisiana, filed suit to stop the Biden administration from implementing its own immigration policies and sought, in effect, to maintain the Trump administration’s policies indefinitely. 

The current enforcement priorities represent a significant shift away from the Trump administration’s policy of detaining and deporting as many people as possible with no regard for equity or fairness. Advocates, including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), have nevertheless warned that the Biden administration’s interim guidance still grants overly broad discretion to ICE. Despite the stated shift in priorities, ICE maintains the authority to conduct enforcement outside of the priority categories with certain approvals. And the interim guidance does not change any existing state or local laws regarding how local law enforcement works with ICE. 

The following statement is from AJ Hernandez Anderson, a senior supervising attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project.   

“This lawsuit was nothing more than Florida state leadership’s latest effort to demonize immigrants, as evidenced by AG Moody’s affirmative steps to marginalize the Florida immigrant community in her press statements regarding the suit.  

“Every part of this suit is untethered from reality, duplicitously asserting that temporary ICE priorities will result in more crime in Florida when, in fact, an increase in non-citizens correlates with a decrease in crime in the state. Clearly, AG Moody prefers to detain all non-citizens, even when it is unconstitutional. Numerous courts have held that immigration detainers are unconstitutional because local law enforcement lacks authority to re-arrest a person on behalf of immigration officials when they would otherwise be free to go.  

“Florida, like Texas and Louisiana, has re-opened the old Southern playbook in an attempt to nullify federal law and the federal government’s discretionary decisions about how best to use its resources. We’ve seen similar efforts time and time again, especially when the federal government is attempting to secure more rights or better treatment for Black and Brown people in the South.   

“SPLC urges the Biden administration to further narrow its enforcement priorities and to reject a carceral model of immigration enforcement that uses a person’s contact with the criminal legal system—which too often results from profiling and systemic racism—as a proxy for risk. 

“Now that the state’s motion for preliminary injunction was rightly denied, Florida’s leaders should shift their focus to the real issues affecting Floridians instead of pursuing new ways to scapegoat immigrant communities and spout hateful rhetoric.”