February 22, 2017

Senators endorse harsher penalties for criminal undocumented migrants

Immigrant_getty

@ByKristenMClark

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.

MORE: “Plan would treat undocumented migrants more harshly in criminal court”

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.

More here.

February 21, 2017

Miami-Dade mayor to take part in Fox News town hall on immigration

Sanctuary seven mhd cmg
@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is in Jacksonville Tuesday to participate in a televised Fox News town hall on immigration.

Gimenez is one of a handful of listed "newsmakers" at the event, including White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach. Immigration attorneys, law enforcement and an academic will also be on hand.

The mayor gained national attention after directing local jails to fulfill federal immigration detention requests of Miami-Dade inmates following President Trump's executive order threatening to cut funding from cities and counties that didn't fully comply with the feds.

The detention requests are voluntary and non-binding, but Gimenez -- and later, a majority of the county commission -- feared being labeled a "sanctuary" would risk funding for big-ticket public-transportation projects.

Fox will air the town hall, moderated by Martha MacCallum, at 7 p.m.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, Miami Herald

'You are not the enemy of the American people,' Ros-Lehtinen tells Miami media

Economic Impact of Immigrants 0140 JAI
@PatriciaMazzei

No reporter asked Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Tuesday morning about President Donald Trump's tweet last week blasting the news media as "the enemy of the American people."

But Ros-Lehtinen chose to kick off her first public appearance of the congressional recess by addressing the president's comments anyway.

"To the members of the press, I want to say thank you," Ros-Lehtinen said. "You are not the enemy of the American people."

The row of reporters lined in the wall in front of her at downtown Miami's Venture Hive, an entrepreneurship accelerator, remained silent. Ros-Lehtinen continued.

"You have a central role in our republic," said the congresswoman, who was born in Cuba. "We thank you for it -- even when you criticize public officials."

At the White House later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked if the president would consider revising his characterization of democracy's Fourth Estate.

"Certain outlets have gone out of their way to not be completely accurate and fair in their coverage," Spicer said. "He has a deep respect for the First Amendment, for the role of the press."

Photo credit: Jose I. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

Miami lawmakers on Trump deportations: ‘You’re going to catch a lot of good people’

Economic+Impact+of+Immigrants+0190+JAI
@PatriciaMazzei

Two Miami Republicans in Congress immediately questioned on Tuesday the Trump administration’s new policy exposing nearly all immigrants in the country illegally to deportation.

U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen were speaking at an event highlighting the contribution of immigrants to Miami’s fledgling tech industry when the Department of Homeland Security announced its rules expanding the categories of people prioritized for removal — a reversal from the Obama administration, which had focused on deporting criminals.

“I worry that when you cast a wide net, you’re going to catch some criminals — but you’re going to catch a lot of good people who don’t have papers but they have not committed violent crimes,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba. “This is a community that has been immigrant-friendly.”

Curbelo agreed, saying there is “broad consensus” to deport “people who are here with the goal of doing us harm.”

“I’d like to encourage the administration to keep the focus on deporting dangerous criminals,” said Curbelo, the son of Cuban immigrants. “Also, I would encourage the administration to try to keep families together as much as possible.”

The congressman did thank President Trump for not pushing to undo the protections offered to people brought into the country illegally as children by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose I. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

February 17, 2017

Fearing Trump, Miami-Dade commission drops county's "sanctuary" protections

Sanctuary four mhd cmg
@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

Miami-Dade commissioners on Friday backed Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s controversial decision to detain jailed inmates sought for deportation by the federal government, citing funding threats by President Donald Trump and ignoring hours of emotional testimony from residents who implored the board to stand up to the mayor.

With a 9-3 vote, commissioners stood behind Gimenez despite listening to scores of residents who spent the day at County Hall hoping to persuade them to protect Miami-Dade’s immigrant identity.

“Shame on you!” the crowd cried after the vote, hurling bits of paper at the dais and standing up to yell and stomp out of the chambers. “May God have mercy on your soul,” one woman hollered.

Voting to endorse Gimenez’s Jan. 26 directive were Chairman Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Vice Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson and Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Sally Heyman, Joe Martinez, Dennis Moss, Rebeca Sosa and Javier Souto. Voting against were Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava, Jean Monestime and Xavier Suarez. Commissioner Barbara Jordan was absent.

“Miami-Dade is not — has never considered itself — a sanctuary community” Gimenez said.

More here.

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

Restore county's 'sanctuary' stance, residents urge Miami-Dade commission

Sanctuary five mhd cmg
@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

One after another, the people who crammed the Miami-Dade County Commission chambers Friday delivered an extended, impassioned and often eloquent defense of immigration, imploring their elected leaders to defend South Florida’s diversity under the presidency of Donald Trump.

More than 150 people signed up to speak, almost all of them against Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to require local jails to detain inmates at the request of federal immigration authorities. Commissioners are scheduled to vote to accept or reject Gimenez’s directive later Friday.

The mayor has cast his action as a purely financial one, intended to avoid a federal funding cut threatened by a Trump executive order banning cities and counties that act as a “sanctuary” for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

But for most speakers — the vast majority of them Hispanic — Gimenez’s move to essentially revoke the county’s sanctuary stance represented an unacceptable rebuke to Miami-Dade’s immigrant identity.

“I’m heartbroken by this debate,” said Manuel Ernesto Gutierrez, who described himself as a U.S. Navy veteran. “What bothers me — and should bother you — is the fundamental issue of what kind of community do we want to be. Do we want to be a welcoming community?”

More here.

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

February 13, 2017

ICE says it didn't carry out immigration raid in Plant City last week

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- A federal official on Monday denied reports that immigration raids were carried out in Plant City in the last week, though there was recent activity related to a search warrant.

A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said there was no activity, despite immigrant advocates saying otherwise -- comments that were reflected in numerous news reports beginning Friday.

"The incident the media reports are likely referring to was earlier this month and was part of a criminal search warrant," ICE spokeswoman Tamara Spicer told the Tampa Bay Times in an email. "As it is part of a criminal investigation pending federal prosecution, we cannot release further details."

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Monday that ICE conducted sweeps in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City and arrested arrested more than 680 individuals who "pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system."

Plant City, in Hillsborough County, has a sizable immigrant population due to farming.

It's possible the search warrant Spicer mentioned was conflated with the raids in Los Angeles, etc., but reports of blanket raids in Florida appear to be false.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 09, 2017

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

110Gimenez01 NEW PPP
@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

Bean metz press 0208

@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