A controversial plan to impose more prison time on undocumented immigrants who commit severe violent crimes in Florida narrowly passed its second Senate committee on Wednesday, but it’s unlikely to advance much farther without buy-in from the House.
The measure (SB 120) has drawn a litany of criticism and questions about its constitutionality from Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocate groups, because it would impose harsher penalties on undocumented immigrants than U.S. citizens or legal residents would otherwise face for the same offenses.
“What is it about their immigration status that makes the crime more heinous?” asked Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “The fact that somebody is here without papers, how does that make the rape or the murder worse?”
“Because they should not be here, and they are now committing these crimes,” replied Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, who is sponsoring the proposal for the second year in a row. Last session, it wasn’t considered at all.
Members of the Senate’s criminal and civil justice budget committee were divided along party lines, with Republicans advancing it on a 3-2 vote. The bill has only one other committee to clear in the Senate before it could reach the floor.
But a similar measure in the Florida House — where some members also have constitutional concerns — hasn’t been taken up at all yet, and it’s not a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes.