(Bethany Blankley, The Center Square) Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday an extensive legislative plan to address the border crisis.
His proposal comes as record numbers of foreign nationals have illegally entered through the southern border and made their way to Florida or are continuing to be apprehended by state and federal law enforcement officers as they attempt to enter Florida illegally by sea.
Florida’s “fight against Biden’s border crisis” plan includes “increasing penalties for human smuggling, strengthening statutes for the detention of illegal aliens, requiring universal use of E-Verify, enhancing penalties for document falsification, and prohibiting the issuance by local governments of ID cards to people who are not lawfully in the country,” the governor’s office said.
With this legislation, Florida is continuing to crack down on the smuggling of illegal aliens, stopping municipalities from issuing ID cards to people here illegally, and ensuring that employers are hiring American citizens or those here legally,” DeSantis said at a press conference at the Hangar One Club in Jacksonville. “Florida is a law and order state, and we won’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s Border Crisis. We will continue to take steps to protect Floridians from reckless federal open border policies.”
DeSantis made the announcement less than two months after issuing a state of emergency after several hundred people began arriving in the Florida Keys on rustic vessels overwhelming first responders and local law enforcement. The influx of people illegally landing in Florida from multiple countries was “particularly burdensome for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office,” DeSantis’ office said last month, which has 194 deputies and limited resources dedicated to providing public safety.
DeSantis also made the announcement as state and local law enforcement agencies continue to bust human and drug smuggling operations stemming from the southern border. When announcing the arrest of over 200 people last week, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said over half of the female sex trafficking victims were illegally in the U.S., telling Americans, “Wake up. There is a crisis at the border.”
“Human smuggling, drug trafficking, and a host of other criminal activities are steadily spilling across the Southern Border and into our state, as bad actors seek to exploit the hard-earned wealth and hard-won freedoms of our citizens for criminal gain,” said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass. “In tandem with our continued vigilance and cooperation with our law enforcement partners across the state, the initiatives championed today by Governor DeSantis will help to keep Floridians safer than ever, protecting our citizens from malefactors who are illegally in our state and removing them from our communities altogether.”
Part of DeSantis’ legislation plan includes invalidating all out-of-state licenses issued to “unauthorized aliens,” requires those registering to vote to affirm they are U.S. citizens and legal residents of Florida, prevents illegal foreign nationals from being admitted to practice law in Florida, and eliminates out-of-state tuition fee waivers for illegal foreign national students. It also requires hospitals to collect data on the citizenship and immigration status of patients and “the costs to provide care to illegal aliens” and regularly report this data to the governor and state legislature.
The plan also increases penalties for human smuggling in response to recommendations made by a grand jury impaneled by the Florida Supreme Court at Governor DeSantis’ request. Once passed by the legislature and signed into law, penalties for those who knowingly transport, conceal, or harbor an illegal alien within or into Florida would be increased to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, with a $5,000 fine, and five years of probation, per count.
It also makes the smuggling of illegal aliens under age 18 a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, per count. The proposal also allows smuggled individuals to be detained by law enforcement as material witnesses.
State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill and the former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, said the border crisis is “a direct result of the federal government refusing to enforce immigration laws” established by Congress. He also said, “The problem is so bad that the federal government should declare itself its own disaster area.”
“It is reckless and an abomination, and our governor will not stand by idly as this open-borders agenda continues to take over our families, friends and our communities. As a matter of fact, he will boldly push Florida as the blueprint by which other states should fight illegal immigration.”
DeSantis’ proposal also builds on previous actions he’s taken, including issuing an executive order prohibiting state agencies from “providing support for the resettlement of illegal aliens in Florida” and prohibiting the licensing of facilities that house unaccompanied minors.
He also signed bills into law prohibiting government contracts with private entities that assist the Biden administration in resettling illegal foreign nationals to Florida, requiring all public employers, contractors, and subcontractors to use E-Verify to determine employment eligibility, and allocating $12 million to transport illegal foreign nationals to sanctuary states, “bringing the border crisis to the communities that support Biden’s open border policies.”
He also created a strike force consisting of state and local law enforcement officers to interdict human smuggling and human trafficking and to seize illegal weapons being transported throughout Florida. So far, they’ve made 200 felony charges, nearly 40 human smuggling charges, and 66 drug charges and seized over $500,000 worth of illicit drugs, his office said.