TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A statewide grand jury said Monday that the nation's border crisis poses "physical and financial dangers" to Floridians. The new report also offers state lawmakers recommendations ahead of their January return to the Capitol.
The panel's latest findings are its fifth presentment since its inception last year. It again hits the administration of President Joe Biden over border policy as critics consider the release a partisan effort to undermine the president.
The 146-page report suggested nearly three million — more than 8,000 a day— attempted to illegally cross into the U.S. in 2022 alone. A third, the grand jury found, were stopped by authorities while the remaining either "got away" or await immigration court hearings. Florida, the panel estimated, now has nearly a million residing in the state illegally.
"This is a damning indictment of the Biden administration's complete failure to protect our border and the tens of thousands of immigrant children being smuggled into our country and in some instances, trafficked," Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement. "Not only is the administration jeopardizing the safety of unaccompanied minor children — they are letting terrorists and immigrants from countries of concern into the interior of the U.S."
The grand jury also listed 10 ideas for state lawmakers to consider in their upcoming legislative session, which begins in January. Among them:
- Closing "loopholes" for visas to neglected or abused juveniles
- Work status verification for all employers — not just those with more than 25 employees
- Plus, a fee for international money transfers out of Florida, potentially generating the state $40 million in new revenue
Finally, the grand jury called for another to be empaneled to investigate non-government organizations, alleging misuse of tax dollars like grants.
"We believe our findings are accurate, and our rationales legitimate," the grand jury report reads. "We would like any audience to know that we are a large and diverse group, who showed up at the courthouse more than a year ago and have labored independently ever since to answer the questions posed in our mandate."
State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, reviewed the report Monday and wasn't buying its conclusions.
It definitely seems clear to me that this grand jury is very partisan in their interpretation of immigration policy," she said.
The Democrat was concerned the report would indeed spur the GOP-controlled Legislature to craft more immigration reform, which she said has hurt more than helped.
"We already have seen workforce shortages," Eskamani said. "We've seen concerns in the agriculture and tourism industry over the latest targeting of immigrants. And what is outlined in this grand jury report is even more extreme than what we've already had."
To date, lawmakers have yet to file a major immigration policy for next year. However, some Republicans have told us to expect a bill in the coming weeks that would strengthen laws already on the books.
This isn't likely the last we've heard from this grand jury. The panel was approved through April of next year, meaning we may get at least one more report before it concludes its work.