Conservative lawmakers in Florida have supported a wave of anti-immigration bills that would deny in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrants, the Sarasota Herald-tribune reported Sunday. The bills would also require all employers to hire legal residents only.
Two of the seven bills were filed into the Florida State Legislature after President Donald Trump's presidential campaign began in June 2015. Republican lawmakers saw how Trump's hard-line rhetoric about immigration resonated with thousands of Floridian conservatives who were polled at the time.
“It’s not that Trump changed the constituency’s mindset. Trump just tapped into those voters,” one of the bills’ sponsors, Rep. Carlos Trujillo, told USA Today Sunday. Similar anti-immigration bills were introduced in Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Iowa, Idaho and Pennsylvania. They were the same states that Trump carried in his November election victory.
The bills would do away with legislation previously signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, which gave in-state tuition rates to children of undocumented immigrants. The laws would strip state funding to local governments if they didn't provide federal immigration authorities with information on undocumented immigrants living in their cities. They would also punish those who wouldn't comply with a $5,000 fine, and the act of undocumented immigrants re-entering the U.S. after being deported would become a third-degree felony.
In addition to being aimed at undocumented immigrants, the potential bills also targeted the number of refugees from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya coming to Florida by increasing background checks and terminating the state’s participation in the refugee resettlement program. Francesca Menes, the policy director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, told USA Today that the bill penalizing "sanctuary cities" on the state level discriminated against individuals based on their religion, country of origin or ethnicity, making them illegal under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
“This bill ultimately can’t be enforced without legalizing racial profiling,” Menes, a Democrat, said. "Because how do you know (the immigrants) are actually undocumented without targeting particular communities that are the most vulnerable?”
Cities like San Francisco and New York City have been referred to as “sanctuary cities” after they announced they wouldn't hand over the names of any of their undocumented immigrants to either be deported or stored in a Muslim registry. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a “landmark” ordinance on March 2, saying any of its roughly 250,000 Muslim residents could sue the city up to $5,000 if their private information appeared in a federal registry.