After Florida passed an “anti-sanctuary cities” law mandating cooperation agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requiring local law enforcement agencies to use their “best efforts” to support federal immigration law enforcement and prohibiting local sanctuary policies, the Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional.
The lawsuit successfully sought an injunction stopping further implementation of the law, which took effect July 1, 2019. Plaintiffs described how several sections of the law were unconstitutionally vague, preempted by federal law and violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
By entangling ICE with local law enforcement, the law risked increased racial profiling, civil rights violations, isolation of immigrant communities and unjust deportations. 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.
A federal court ruled on Sept. 21, 2021, that key sections of the law indeed violated the equal protection clause, delivering a decision that struck a major blow to the state’s anti-immigrant policymakers and a victory for communities fighting the law.
In her ruling, Judge Beth Bloom wrote, “[T]he Sanctuary Prohibition was enacted based on biased and unreliable data generated by anti-immigrant hate groups [Federation for American Immigration Reform] and [the Center for Immigration Studies], despite the chilling effect and disparate impact that this provision would have on immigrant communities. Moreover, the Best Efforts Provision anticipated and intended to grant law enforcement officers expansive discretion on when and how to use their ‘best efforts,’ despite the knowledge that such proactive policing measures were likely to increase the amount of racial profiling that occurs during law enforcement interactions.”
Defendants have since appealed this case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.