As a Miami immigration lawyer, I am deeply disturbed by the fact that the House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 9-4 to back a measure (HB 675) by Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, that in part would define and prohibit sanctuary communities. In addition, the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee voted 8-3 to support a proposal (HB 9) by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, that would make it a felony for people who defy deportation orders. Below are some frequently asked questions:

Why did the Florida House propose these bills?

State House members hold the view that these measures are aimed at cracking down on cities and counties that provide “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants, thereby increasing penalties for people who defy deportation orders. They also contend that this proposal isn’t intended to target any specific group but seeks to uphold immigration laws that the federal government is failing to carry out. If you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

What would HB 675 entail?

Under Metz’ proposal, government officials could face fines up to $5,000 a day for enacting policies or encouraging practices that could provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. The proposal would also allow people who have been victims of crimes in sanctuary communities to sue the local governments if the crimes were committed by undocumented immigrants. Again, if you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

What is a “sanctuary city”?

A “sanctuary city” refers to a local government that in some way does not enforce federal immigration laws and are considered “safe harbors” for undocumented immigrants.

What are some concerns in regard to these proposed bills?

Immigration advocates, and Miami immigration lawyers like myself included, are concerned that these measures will change the relationship between law enforcement and minority communities. There is real fear that people will be afraid to deal with the police. Crime victims, domestic-violence victims, human-trafficking victims, witnesses to a crime, even reporting a crime, will have a chilling effect based on the bill. In addition, individuals like Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava have urged the committee to honor the dignity and discretion of our local law enforcement to detain when necessary for public safety. She also added that the decision by the county to limit its cooperation with federal immigration authorities is saving the county $1 million per year. Again, if you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

What was the policy regarding complying with federal immigration detention rules in Miami-Dade County?

Miami-Dade adopted the policy against complying with federal immigration detention rules in 2013 because the jail had to bear most of the detention costs, and police feared the detentions would deter victims and witnesses of crimes in immigrant communities from coming forward. Under the policy, the county won’t hold detainees for 48 hours to allow immigration officials to pick them up, unless there is a warrant for an arrest.

Six other counties — Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Palm Beach and Broward — have enacted policies that also do not enforce federal deportation orders without a warrant.

If you would like more information on the Florida House Bills on sanctuary immigrant communities, please contact Miami immigration lawyer Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at

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