A federal judge this week struck down key portions of Florida’s ban on so-called sanctuary cities, “declaring portions of a law unconstitutional and tinged with ‘discriminatory motives,’” Miami Herald reports. The court’s ruling cites “biased and unreliable data generated” by two notorious anti-immigrant hate groups founded by white nationalist and eugenicist John Tanton. Notably, the judge’s decision refers to these organizations as hate groups.
“This ruling is a victory for immigrants across the state of Florida,” a coalition of groups fighting the law said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “This law was clearly developed to encourage racial profiling, civil rights violations, isolation of immigrant communities, and unjust deportations. It did more harm for the causes of public safety than good. This should send a clear message to Gov. DeSantis and all those proponents of this racist law that they will not go unchallenged.”
The Associated Press (AP) reports that DeSantis had pushed the law while running for governor, in 2019 signing legislation “at a campaign-style appearance in the conservative Panhandle region, unlike his other more subdued formal bill signing events.” Never mind that there’s no evidence that so-called sanctuary city policies harm public safety; DeSantis and state Republicans had an agenda to pass, and they did with the help of Tanton groups Federation For American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). This would lead to some of the bill’s undoing in court.
“Allowing anti-immigrant hate groups that overtly promote xenophobic, nationalist, racist ideologies to be intimately involved in a bill’s legislative process is a significant departure from procedural norms,” wrote U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom, an Obama appointee. “This involvement strongly suggests that the Legislature enacted SB 168 to promote and ratify the racist views of these advocacy groups.” She further noted that even after the bill’s sponsor and supporters were confronted about these extremist organizations, “there is no record evidence establishing any effort to renounce these discriminatory views.”
Bloom notes that lawmakers then continued to publicly affiliate themselves with anti-immigrant groups like Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, including speaking at a “Victims of Illegal Immigration Day” event organized by the group. State Sen. Joe Gruters, one of the bill’s sponsors, was among the speakers, the judge’s ruling noted. Another strike in court.
“Moreover, the bill sponsors’ comments during this event further evidences their ideological alignment with the groups that spoke and with the hostile and harmful narratives that were promoted by these groups against individuals they described as ‘illegals,’” Bloom continued.
The AP notes Bloom’s ruling “rejected sections of the law that ban local government sanctuary policies and require local law enforcement to make their best effort to work with federal immigration enforcement authorities.” But other parts of the law remained, “including one that required state and local law enforcement agencies to comply with immigration detainers,” Miami Herald reported. The report said that DeSantis’ office will appeal.
“Advocates proved that the law ... undermines public safety and increases racial profiling, and that it was designed with the consultation of anti-immigrant hate groups,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Community Justice Project, and University of Miami School of Law’s Immigration Clinic said in the press release. They sued on behalf of nine organizations, including Florida Immigrant Coalition, Farmworker Association of Florida, WeCount!, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Hope Community Center, QLatinx, Westminster Presbyterian United Church, The Guatemalan-Maya Center, Inc., Family Action Network Movement and the City of South Miami.
While we’re on the topic, CIS and FAIR have been among the anti-immigrant groups cited hundreds of times by mainstream outlets since 2019, a Media Matters report said earlier this year. CIS leader Mark Krikorian in fact once commented that the scrawling of the white supremacist terrorist who went to El Paso to kill Mexicans was “remarkably well-written for a 21-year-old loner.” Yet, major news outlets keep going to these groups for comment on immigration policy as if they’re legitimate. The judge’s ruling correctly labels them as anti-immigrant hate groups, because that’s exactly what they are. It would do well for media to avoid them.