February 09, 2017

Study: South Florida ranks No. 5 in undocumented immigrant population

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@PatriciaMazzei

South Florida is home to nearly half a million immigrants who are in the country illegally, making it the metropolitan area with the fifth-largest undocumented population in the U.S., according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Some 450,000 unauthorized immigrants reside in the greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area, Pew found, based on 2014 estimates from government data. About 55,000 live in the city of Miami alone.

President Donald Trump has promised to crack down on illegal immigration, signing an executive order last month to cut federal funding for cities and counties considered “sanctuaries” for the undocumented. To avoid the label, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez quickly agreed to hold inmates in local jails for federal immigration agents even if the feds refuse to reimburse the county for the expense — a contentious policy reversal that has been met with protests.

South Florida trails other major urban centers that attract scores more of undocumented immigrants. Leading the list are New York and Los Angeles, with 1.2 million and 1 million, respectively. In third and fourth place are Houston (575,000) and Dallas (450,000).

More here.

VIDEO: 'We are a nation of rules,' lawmakers say in unveiling plan to ban 'sanctuary' cities

@ByKristenMClark @JeremySWallace

State Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, say their 2017 legislation seeking to outlaw "sanctuary" cities is about maintaining the rule of law and keeping communities safe from those who are in the United States illegally and may wish to do harm.

They explain more below. Find our full story here, which includes details on their legislation.

Florida lawmakers unveil latest plan to outlaw 'sanctuary' cities

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@ByKristenMClark

Declaring “we are a nation of rules,” Florida Republican lawmakers have officially revived their efforts to go after so-called “sanctuary” cities and counties in Florida — and their elected officials — that don’t fully cooperate with federal enforcement of immigration law.

The bills (SB 786 / HB 697) — dubbed the “Rule of Law Adherence Act” — impose an array of restrictions to ban “sanctuary policies” in Florida and create fines and penalties for state agencies, local governments or law enforcement agencies that have one. Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, unveiled their legislation Wednesday in Tallahassee.

“The one thing that everybody should know in our country is: We can’t choose which laws we’ll obey or which laws we don’t obey,” said Bean, who told the Herald/Times last week the legislation would be coming.

The bills would formally define a “sanctuary policy” as any “law, policy, practice, procedure, or custom adopted or permitted” by a state, local or law enforcement agency “which contravenes or which knowingly prohibits or impedes a law enforcement agency from communicating or cooperating with a federal immigration agency with respect to federal immigration enforcement.”

It’s not clear when — or even, if — the legislation might be considered, but the proposal is likely to draw backlash from Democrats, as well as immigrant advocates and local governments.

More here on what exactly Bean and Metz are proposing this year.

Photo credit: Jeremy Wallace / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

February 08, 2017

Trump wants cops to turn over 'bad' undocumented immigrants

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@PatriciaMazzei

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he wants local cops to do exactly what Miami-Dade County police say they would like to avoid: work much more closely with federal immigration authorities.

Speaking to a conference of police chiefs in Washington, Trump urged cops to turn over “bad” immigrants who are in the country illegally to the Department of Homeland Security. That’s home to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees deportations.

Trump told police they could tell Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — the former head of the U.S. Southern Command in Doral — “who the illegal immigrant gang members are.”

“You know the illegals. You know them by their first name. You know them by their nicknames,” Trump said. “You’re in the neighborhoods: You know the bad ones, you know the good ones. I want you to turn in the bad ones.”

Miami-Dade police have no qualms about alerting immigration to violent criminals they have arrested. But the definition of “bad” is hazy, and local cops still have lingering questions over how far the administration may push them to cooperate.

“It’s clear that they haven’t established any policies yet,” said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Pérez, who attended the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriff’s Association conference where Trump spoke. “It’s still too soon.”

More here.

Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

February 03, 2017

Lawmakers propose harsher penalties on undocumented immigrants. It isn't likely to pass.

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@ByKristenMClark

More than 1,800 undocumented immigrants currently serving time in Florida prisons for felony offenses such as murder or armed burglary could have faced years or even decades more behind bars — at Florida taxpayers’ expense — had a proposal being vetted now by state lawmakers already been law.

Citing a desire to “keep our citizens and constituents safe,” Elkton Republican Sen. Travis Hutson — for the second year in a row — wants to impose stiffer penalties on undocumented immigrants than U.S. citizens or legal residents would otherwise face for the same violent crimes.

Last year, Hutson’s proposal was never considered. But 2017 offers a different dynamic that’s allowing his idea to get at least some consideration and put immigrant advocates on edge.

More conservative Republicans now hold influential positions in the Florida Senate, and the upcoming legislative session comes after a presidential campaign in which illegal immigration was a driving issue and as a Trump White House makes it a priority to crack down on undocumented immigrants — particularly those who commit crimes.

RELATED: On heels of Trump order, Florida lawmakers also want to penalize ‘sanctuaries’

Hutson and other Republican senators — including Senate President Joe Negron, of Stuart — argue enhanced criminal penalties are warranted because undocumented immigrants already flout the law by being in the country illegally.

“You’ve broken the rules to get here, and then you have the temerity to violate our laws and commit violent crimes against our citizens, so I do think that some enhanced penalties are appropriate in that circumstance,” Negron said.

But even with that endorsement, Hutson’s proposal (SB 120) isn’t expected to earn enough support to clear both chambers of the Republican-led Legislature.

The House hasn’t made it an early priority as the Senate has, and Hutson’s plan has drawn swift rebuke from immigrant advocates and some religious groups, who argue the idea is unjust and discriminatory.

More here.

Photo credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Former U.S. Attorneys bash Trump's immigration ban

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via @jayhweaver

Three dozen former federal prosecutors — many Democrats, but some Republicans — issued a statement Thursday denouncing President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning people from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States.

“If we were called upon to defend the executive order, could we do it within the guidelines we learned and lived by as lawyers for the United States?” said the statement signed by 36 former federal prosecutors who worked in South Florida, including three U.S. attorneys in Miami. “We could not. ...

“It would be our job, if we were representing the United States today, to say, no, this executive order is wrong and should not be defended,” the statement reads.

The group condemned Trump’s order as “a thinly veiled attempt to exclude Muslims from certain countries based on their religion,” and lauded Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce the order because she did not believe it was lawful. Yates was summarily fired by the president.

Dan Gelber, a Democrat running for Miami Beach mayor, was one of the prosecutors who signed the letter.

Keep reading here.

 

February 02, 2017

A 'sanctuary cities' bill is in the works for 2017 session

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@ByKristenMClark

As President Donald Trump’s administration cracks down on so-called “sanctuary” cities for undocumented immigrants, some Republican lawmakers in Florida aim to do the same this year.

State Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, told the Herald/Times that he and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, are drafting legislation that will seek to impose “consequences” on cities and counties “who say there are only select, certain federal laws they’re going to abide by.”

“We’re looking at financial penalties, yes,” Bean said when asked if the consequences potentially included withholding state funding from cities and counties deemed “sanctuaries” for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

“We’re also looking at removing the umbrella of your sovereign immunity for elected individuals, boards and constitutional officers,” Bean said — which would allow victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to then sue city and county officials if they don’t fully comply with enforcing federal immigration laws.

More here.

Photo credit: Protesters gather at the Miami-Dade government center on Jan. 27, 2017, to protest against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to remove the county’s label as a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants in the country illegally. C.M. Guerrero / el Neuvo Herald

 

January 27, 2017

Anger erupts in Miami-Dade over mayor's decision to comply with Trump immigration order

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@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

Political blowback erupted Friday against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for requiring local jails to detain immigrants in the country illegally at the behest of the federal government, effectively abandoning Miami-Dade’s stance as a “sanctuary” county.

Immigration advocates descended on County Hall, staging a protest — called on short notice — of more than 100 people that forced police officers to close off the lobby of the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami to keep the demonstrators out.

“Hey, Gimenez, shame on you!” Miami labor union organizer Kathy Bird Carvajal shouted into a megaphone. “You are an immigrant, too.”

Gimenez decided to comply with “detainer” requests Thursday, a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening to deny federal grants from cities and counties that didn’t fully cooperate with immigration authorities. Miami-Dade had stopped holding inmates flagged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as illegal in 2013.

At least one federal agency — the Justice Department — took that to mean Miami-Dade was a “sanctuary” county for undocumented immigrants, a designation the county has disputed though there is no legal definition for a sanctuary jurisdiction. Which federal grants might be affected by Trump’s order is also unclear.

Trump praised Gimenez’s swift action late Thursday on Twitter, calling it the “right decision.”

“Strong!” he wrote, bringing worldwide attention to Gimenez’s action.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, Miami Herald staff 

December 02, 2016

Latvala bristles at freshman senator's attempt to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants

via @JeffSolochek

Without mentioning any names, or even the issue at hand, Florida Sen. Jack Latvala took a clear swipe Thursday at a newly minted Senate colleague who filed legislation to undo a university tuition measure that Latvala worked hard to broker two years ago.

Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, proposed a bill Wednesday to void a law granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students who graduate from Florida high schools. Latvala initially had little to say about the proposal, which he hadn't yet read.

MORE: "In-state college tuition rates for Florida's undocumented students could be in danger"

A day later, in a room filled with school board members from across the state, Latvala let loose. He made his comments in response to the question of what might be his biggest non-financial challenge in the 2017 session.

That challenge, Latvala said, will be coming to grips with the largest freshman group of senators in memory — 20 in all, 17 of whom came from the Florida House with their own set of protocols and behaviors that differ from the more collegial Senate.

He paused, then continued to speak about "one of" the House transplants who, just a few days into the term decided to file a bill that would repeal all the hard work a longstanding senator — the Appropriations Committee chairman, no less — spent significant effort moving through the Legislature.

Latvala is the Appropriations chair.

"It gets your back up," he said. "The final chapter hasn't been played on that."

FSBA executive director Andrea Messina, who moderated the panel, playfully asked, "It wasn't Sen. (Dana) Young, was it?"

A grinning Young sat three seats away from Latvala, who responded quickly, "She wouldn't dare."

Sen. David Simmons, another Senate long-timer at the table, said he spent eight years in the House before coming to the upper chamber. The operating models of each differs greatly, he said, and it will take time for all to acclimate to one another.

But one thing is certain, Simmons said: Newcomers quickly learn that "the toe or foot you step on is attached to another part of the anatomy you might need to kiss" later on to get what you want.

The room burst into laughter. Steube was not present.

November 21, 2016

Florida Republicans to launch conservative coalition for immigration reform

@amysherman1

A group of Florida Republicans including two who were critical of Donald Trump will launch a conservative coalition that will make an economic argument in favor of immigration reform.

Floridians for Immigration Solutions will hold their kickoff event at Hialeah City Hall at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“The effort is one of a dozen statewide conservative coalitions calling for a responsible solution to the country’s broken immigration system that secures the border, grows the economy, and recognizes that America cannot and should not engage in mass deportations of millions of productive members of society,” states a press release.

Trump made a series of immigration-related promises including that he would turn off the “jobs and benefits magnet” that attracts immigrants who come to the United States illegally. His  immigration plan also includes building a wall on the Mexican border, deporting criminals and ending Obama’s executive actions including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Trump has something in common with some Florida business owners: he has used H-2B visas to import temporary foreign workers at his Mar-A-Lago resort.

The coalition leaders include four Republican past or present politicians: Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, State Sen. René García, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan Zapata and former State Rep. J.C. Planas. The coalition also includes business leaders Julio Fuentes, CEO of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Mandy Llanes, chair of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce.

Planas backed libertarian Gary Johnson but said on election day he wrote in former Gov. Jeb Bush’s name. He said the coalition will make an economic case about the need for immigration reform.

“The message of this is immigrants are not just an important part of our country -- immigrants are an important part of the economy,” Planas told the Miami Herald. “For all Americans to prosper and for us to keep the economy growing we have to make any immigration solution be as positive for economy as possible. We cannot let any sort of xenophobic feelings cause us to harm the economic recovery of the country.”

Garcia criticized Trump after he said that a judge in the Trump University case couldn’t be fair because the judge was of Mexican descent and Trump wants to build a border wall.

"These demeaning words seek to divide the country among racial lines, and that is simply contrary to the American values that have made our country great,” Garcia said in June. “It is shameful that Mr. Trump is using his public profile to force pressure on a reputable member of the federal judiciary to affect the outcome of a private civil matter. Republican or Democrat, black or white, we must stand in solidarity and denounce these blatantly racist remarks."

Hernandez, who told the Miami Herald that he voted for Trump, said he wants a path to legal status for certain undocumented immigrants. He said he wants the Trump administration to pursue: "a path to securing our border, restructuring the U.S. immigration system in a manner that supports economic growth, discourages illegal immigration, and creates a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who are not a threat and are productive members of society."

The coalition is an initiative of the New American Economy, a bipartisan effort calling for immigration reform. The New American Economy is working toward having similar coalitions nationwide -- this is the first one in Florida.

“Our basic reason for being is to make the case of how immigration helps America and helps the economy,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the New American Economy. “We want diverse political voices. It’s no secret the Republicans control everything, that is the reason why we are lifting up conservative voices now.”