Republican leader said legislation preserves public safety.
State Sen. Joe Gruters slammed South Miami’s plan to challenge a new so-called sanctuary cities ban as “reckless” and “irresponsible.”
“These commissioners think they can prioritize illegal immigrants over the safety and security of their community and get away with it,” Gruters said. “Wasting tax dollars to protect criminals? Not on my watch.”
The Sarasota Republican sponsored the legislation in the Senate this year. Similar measures have passed previously in the House, but 2019 marked the first time the Senate passed the bill.
Gov. Ron DeSantis made a ban on so-called sanctuary cities a priority this year and signed the bill in June. But the controversial legislation was greeted with resistance, particularly in immigrant-rich South Florida.
South Miami leaders say they will work with the Southern Poverty Law Center to challenge the legislation.
“Our police are responsible for maintaining the public safety, and as soon as they are seen as somebody who might turn you in if you called for assistance, they’re no longer trusted and they can no longer do their primary job of keeping all the citizens and all the residents of a community safe,” South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard said.
“It creates divisions.”
Not so, said Gruters: “Banning sanctuary cities is about one thing and one thing only – public safety.”
Gruters, also chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, announced a listening tour with the bill’s House sponsor, Cord Byrd. He recently visited the Mexican border and reported on crisis conditions.
He painted the resistance to the new law as partisan grandstanding.
“It was only 90 days ago when Democrats on the national stage were debating whether there was even a crisis at our southern border,” Gruters said. “They lost that debate because Floridians and everyday Americans care deeply about this issue.
“I look forward to listening to their ideas on how we can better strengthen a broken system.”
On Facebook, he accused South Miami leaders of actively working to protect law-breakers.
“Disgusting to see a city in Florida use tax-dollars to protect criminals who are in our country illegally!” he said. “My Sanctuary City Ban, which was signed into law by our Governor Governor Ron DeSantis, isn’t just legal – it’s the right thing to do!
“Who is ready for this legal fight? It’s time to protect our communities from Criminal Illegal Aliens!”
Notably, throughout Session, Gruters maintained the legislation would only detrimentally lead to deportation of individuals with active detainer orders. That primarily includes those with violent criminal histories and those who were deported and returned to the U.S.