After Florida passed a law prohibiting sanctuary policies and requiring local police to act as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, the Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional and a threat to the state’s most vulnerable residents.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction stopping further implementation of the law, which went into effect July 1, 2019. It describes how several sections of the law are unconstitutionally vague, pre-empted by federal law, and violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
By entangling ICE with local law enforcement, the law risks racial profiling, civil rights violations, isolation of immigrant communities, and unjust deportations, the lawsuit argues. Turning local police into federal immigration agents undermines any trust the police have built with the immigrant community, which ultimately undermines public safety for all Floridians. The law also empowers abusive employers and domestic partners to threaten immigrants.
The lawsuit describes how the law requires local law enforcement to use their “best efforts” to support the enforcement of federal immigration law, but it never defines “best efforts,” or who will define it – leaving local governments and law enforcement struggling to interpret the provision.
The SPLC is waiting for a verdict from the non-jury trial that took place in January 2021.