Even though we are still less than six weeks into 2016, it's already become apparent that immigration will emerge as one of the year's primary political issues at the federal level. Indeed, one needn't look any further than the pending case before the Supreme Court of the United States examining the constitutionality of President Obama's executive actions on immigration or even the televised presidential debates.
It's important to understand, however, that immigration is also going to be primary political issue right here in Florida in 2016. By way of example, consider the highly controversial legislation advanced by the House of Representatives earlier this week.
Specifically, lawmakers voted along mostly party lines to pass House Bill 675, which calls for the end of "sanctuary cities" in the state, meaning those places where law enforcement officials and/or lawmakers have refused to work in any capacity with federal immigration agencies. Furthermore, it grants the governor the power to remove noncompliant officials from office.
As if this wasn't shocking enough, HB 675 even extends to those places like Miami-Dade County, where law enforcement officials do cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by holding violent offenders, but frequently decline to hold nonviolent offenders given that federal agents rarely follow through with deportation orders in these cases.
Nevertheless, under HB 675, they would be required to essentially hold any and all undocumented immigrants for any criminal offense no matter the severity.
Not surprisingly, HB 675 -- which the American Civil Liberties Union indicates could affect as many as 30 counties, including all of South Florida -- is already generating significant criticism with foes rightfully arguing that the measure is not only unnecessarily punitive toward undocumented immigrants, but will also prove to be incredibly costly for local governments to implement.
“You’re taking your frustration out on what the federal government is or is not doing with respect to immigration, and you’re punishing local government for it,” said one representative opposed to the measure.
It remains to be seen if HB 675 will gain the necessary support to become law. Indeed, it's worth noting that no companion measure was introduced in the Senate.
Stay tuned for updates …
Those with pressing questions about immigration-related matters should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can provide both the necessary answers and the necessary guidance.