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DeSantis and Florida face legal action over recent immigration law. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.
DeSantis and Florida face legal action over recent immigration law. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.

Florida sued over wide-ranging immigration policy

Filed in Miami federal court by several advocacy groups, the lawsuit is focused on the policies enacted by the state on July 1.

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Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis are facing legal action from several advocacy groups who on Monday, July 17 filed a lawsuit arguing that the state’s new immigration policies on transporting undocumented immigrants “could sweep in all manner of immigrants.”

AIC, as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Florida, Americans for Immigrant Justice filed the suit on behalf of the Farmworker Association of Florida and nine unnamed plaintiffs who say they would face criminal charges under the law.

Plaintiffs include migrants as well as U.S. citizens who provide transportation to immigrants for humanitarian or health reasons to a married couple of undocumented farmworkers who work seasonally in Florida and other states.

The lawsuit in particular is focused on Section 10 of the Presidential hopeful’s wide-ranging immigration law, which makes it a felony to transport an undocumented immigrant into and out of Florida. 

Section 10 in the suit was called “hopelessly vague and incoherent, because Floridians and travelers into Florida have no way to know which people fall within its terms.”

“Not only is this law detrimental to our members’ abilities to put food on their own tables, it is detrimental to our members’ ability to put food on everyone’s tables,” said Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli, general coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida.

The law, which went into effect July 1, also requires the use of E-Verify, a controversial federal program to check employees’ immigration status, bans the use of certain out-of-state drivers’ licenses granted to undocumented immigrants, and requires hospitals to ask for patients’ immigration status.

“Criminalizing transportation without federal ‘inspection’ and subjecting individuals to vague definitions is both unconstitutional and unfair,” said Kate Melloy Goettel, legal director of litigation at the American Immigration Council (AIC), one of the groups who filed the suit.

“This ill-advised legislation not only singles out immigrants and their families but also poses a threat to the social and economic well-being of Florida’s communities,” she added. 

Plaintiffs argued the policy’s language doesn’t match up with federal immigration statutes, which they say can be confusing as for who the bill would consider to have been “inspected” for immigration purposes. 

“Each year, to maximize the seasons that they work, they usually spend about six months of the year working in Florida and six months of the year working out of state. They travel together across states. This year, however, they did not leave Florida to work out-of-state because they were frightened that if they left Florida, they would not be able to return, due to Section 10,” reads the lawsuit.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), Statewide Prosecutor Nicholas Cox, and the 20 Florida state attorneys are named as defendants. 

Jeremy Redfern, the press secretary for DeSantis’s executive office, denounced the ACLU over the lawsuit and defended the law in an email to The Hill. 

“The ACLU has for years drifted increasingly leftward and out of the American mainstream. Long are the days when the ACLU defended actual civil liberties, such as free speech and religious rights. But taking the side of human smugglers–something truly outrageous and abhorrent–wasn’t on our bingo card,” said Redfern. 

“Nevertheless, in Florida, we will continue to fight illegal immigration and the evil predations of human smuggling. We look forward to defending Florida and its humane laws against attacks by the ACLU and its leftist cronies.”

Another plaintiff was identified as M.M. — a mother of five, including four U.S. citizens — who overstayed her visa and is now seeking help in immigration court, said she joined the suit “because this law harms our family and many others.”

“We aren’t doing anything to hurt anyone. On the contrary, we’re here working, paying taxes and trying to provide a safe life for our families. Now we’re scared to even travel together as a family. I would never want my son to face a felony for traveling with his mother and his sister. It makes no sense. We’re family — how can this be?” said M.M. in a statement.

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