Jim Turner and Dara Kam, Florida Today, February 27, 2019
Pushing a hard-line immigration stance that endeared him to conservative voters, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday called on lawmakers to pass a controversial measure to ban so-called sanctuary cities during the legislative session that begins next week.
The Republican governor also urged Florida sheriffs to join a handful of their colleagues participating in a federal immigration enforcement program in which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, deputizes local law officials.
In addition, DeSantis instructed the state’s prisons chief, Mark Inch, to come up with a way the state Department of Corrections can also participate in the federal program, which allows state and local law enforcement officials to investigate, apprehend, detain and transport undocumented immigrants facing deportation. The program is known as the 287(g) program.
Shortly after taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump — an ally of DeSantis — ordered an expansion of the 287(g) program, which has since rapidly grown in parts of the country.
DeSantis called on the state’s sheriffs to enter into agreements with federal authorities similar to the memorandum that allows Nienhuis’ office to train and authorize personnel to identify and process undocumented immigrants.
“What they’re doing is something that is very sensible. They are not transforming their sheriff’s departments into an immigration agency,” DeSantis said. “They have a lot of fish to fry. They’re going to be dealing with the typical criminal activity that we see on a daily basis. They’re going to do things to maintain good order here.”
The governor said he wants the state corrections department to enter a similar agreement with ICE.
“Right now, we have over 4,500 criminal aliens in the Florida prison system. I think those individuals, when their sentences are over, need to be immediately turned over to ICE so they can be repatriated back to their country,” DeSantis said.
The governor also used Tuesday’s event, where he was joined by state Sen. Wilton Simpson, to show support for legislation (HB 527, SB 168) intended to ensure local governments in Florida fully comply with requests from federal immigration authorities.
The presence of Simpson, a Trilby Republican slated to take over as Senate president after the 2020 elections, demonstrated that the ban on so-called sanctuary cities has greater momentum this year than in the past, when similar proposals have stalled in the Senate.
The Senate’s sanctuary city ban is being sponsored by Joe Gruters, a Sarasota senator who doubles as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Gruters has made the proposal a top priority going into the annual legislative session, which starts March 5.