More than 4.5 million Floridians, 21% of the population, were born in another country. Nearly half are not naturalized U.S. citizens. They are our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends. They have been targeted by anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies at the local and state level.
While the country has been confronted with the harsh consequences of this rhetoric, Florida remains firmly in the Trump era as its political leaders continue to build their legacies on the backs of immigrants. With the 2020 presidential election, many of the Trump Administration’s cruelest policies have been rolled back. While progress is being made on the national front, our country has a long way to go to correct the injustices of a broken immigration system. Florida’s political leaders, meanwhile, continue to push harmful narratives painting immigrants as criminals and actively engaging in unnecessarily cruel anti-immigrant actions, such as sending state resources to the Texas-Mexico border. Local governments still have the authority – and responsibility – to serve and protect their communities without regard to citizenship status.
To mitigate against the harms of forced participation in federal immigration detention and deportation efforts, local governments must adopt policies that:
Limit Warrantless Detention: Local governments do not have to have a 287(g) agreement with ICE to comply with state law. They do have a duty to serve their communities and prioritize local public safety concerns over political rhetoric. They can do this by reducing entanglement with federal immigration enforcement, preserving local policing resources to address localcrime, and protecting their communities by proactively adopting policies that standardize any immigration enforcement activities they feel they must perform under the law.
Increase Transparency and Accountability: Being transparent with the public is an essential part of law enforcement. State law requires cities and counties to participate in federal immigration detention efforts, but they should do this transparently, not secretively.
Prohibit Discrimination: Too often, local police wrongfully detain U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents without probable cause, simply based on how they look or speak. We need to protect the civil liberties of Floridians and make sure our friends and neighbors are not unfairly targeted or discriminated against.
Protect Public Safety: If immigrants either witness a crime, or are victims of a crime, but feel too afraid to report it to local law enforcement because they are worried they’ll be deported, everyone loses. If we want our communities to be safer, then we have to make sure everyone can safely report criminal activity to the police.
Protect Civil Liberties: Less than half of the people facing deportation cases in Florida have legal representation. Because undocumented immigration is not a crime, immigrants, even children, do not have a right to an attorney. Local governments can partner with legal aid foundations and reputable law firms to ensure immigrants have the legal advice necessary to navigate our incredibly complex immigration system.
Immigrants are already part of our communities. We should be working together to find thoughtful solutions that work for us all.
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