Ahead of 2020, Florida Republicans prepare for round 2 on immigration

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Republicans are preparing to launch another contentious and emotional battle over immigration as the 2020 presidential election kicks into high gear next year.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, the Republican Party of Florida chairman who shepherded this year’s legislative ban on sanctuary cities, a measure that became law this week, said Monday that he wants to require Florida businesses to use a federal immigration database to check whether their workers are in the country legally.

Gruters (R-Sarasota) made the announcement after a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, where he filmed a campaign-style video paid for by his political committee. He and Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach), the House sponsor of the sanctuary city ban, plan to do a “statewide listening tour” on immigration in the next few weeks.

“We want to make sure we have the laws in place we need,” Gruters said. “We want to capitalize on the success we have had so far and we want to keep on going.”

The battle over the sanctuary city ban was one of the most bruising of this year’s legislative session. The bill made it through the GOP-controlled Legislature only with prodding from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The new law prohibits local governments from adopting policies to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. Under the measure, undocumented immigrants could be detained for even minor legal violations and turned over to federal immigration enforcement if a detainer request is found for them.

President Donald Trump, who has taken a hard line against immigration during his first term, praised the passage of the Florida bill during his election kickoff last month in Orlando. The Florida measure was vigorously opposed by Democrats and immigrant rights groups.

Trump’s anti-immigration platform has energized voters in Florida, a state the president will need to capture to win reelection. DeSantis won a tight race for governor last year after he said that he favored the mandate and attacked his Republican rival on the issue.

By Gary Fineout for POLITICO
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