Florida bill could penalize sanctuary cities

Posted at 6:06 PM, Jan 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-22 19:47:24-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- A sanctuary city is a district where local leaders vote to make policies designed to not prosecute undocumented peoples. Turns out Palm Beach County is considered a sanctuary county according to the Center for Immigration Studies. A case in San Francisco last summer set the stage for a big debate in Florida.

It was July2015. Thirty two-year-old Kate Steinle was in downtown San Francisco with her mom and dad. Steinle was a tourist, taking in the sights, when she was suddenly shot and killed by  Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. It was later determined Lopez-Sanchez was in this country illegally and the city of San Francisco didn't catch it because city officials warmly welcome undocumented migrants and have made San Francisco what's called a 'sanctuary city.'

Now, Florida lawmakers are taking a hard look at all sanctuary cities across the Sunshine State and some counties too. A proposed bill (HB 675) would penalize such municipalities, punishing all law enforcement officers in regions that don't fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

"The consequence is that families would be destroyed," said Mara Martinez. "It's not right." Martinez, an outreach worker at the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worthsays she hopes the bill does not pass. "Well you know right now everyone is afraid because you can hear the news that they've been putting people in jail."

Martinez believes this bill, if passed, would scare immigrants away from reporting crimes; causing further hardship in the immigrant community. David Caulkett founder of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN) has a different opinion.

Caulkett supports HB 675 and its senate equivalent, Caulkett  explained. "What we need in this country is the supporting of the rule of law and that is the title of the bill, the rule of law adherence act."

Caulkett says the bill does not target any one group, but instead asks for compliance with federal law.

"There are many instances like Kate Steinle , we cannot continue to have basically anarchy, so we need enforcement of immigration laws to protect our citizens.

HB 675 is up for debate again next week.