Miami Law's Immigration Clinic appeared before U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom on Thursday to ask for a preliminary injunction against the state’s anti-sanctuary bill, SB 168. The new Florida law, which purports to give ICE authority to conscript local police officers into performing immigration enforcement functions and prohibits sanctuary policies, is unlawful and will hurt Florida’s most defenseless, according to Rebecca Sharpless, director of the clinic.
“SB 168 gives powers to local law enforcement that Congress did not authorize and runs afoul of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Sharpless says. “The law is also unconstitutionally vague because it is not clear what cities and counties must do to provide ‘best efforts’ to help ICE. Do cities have to prioritize assisting ICE over community policing?”
At a news conference prior to the court hearing, Mayor Phillip Stoddard of the City of South Miami, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, reported that the city’s crime rate plummeted by 47% percent when the city started using a community policing approach based on establishing trust with residents.
“The law harms Floridians, especially those who belong to our immigrant communities,” said third-year law student Amelia Daynes, who is working on the case for the clinic. “By linking immigration enforcement to local policing, SB 168 will increase racial profiling, separate families, and erode community trust in law enforcement. The law isn’t even in effect, but members of the organizations we represent in this litigation are already afraid of interacting with police and other local government officials, regardless of their immigration status.”
At the hearing, Sharpless and attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Community Justice Project, and the City of South Miami and multiple civil rights groups asked the judge to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting state and local officials from enforcing this law, which goes into effect on October 1.
Miami Law is joined in the suit by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Farmworker Association of Florida, WeCount!, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Hope Community Center, QLatinx, Westminster Presbyterian United Church, The Guatemalan-Maya Center Inc., Family Action Network Movement, the City of South Miami and South Miami Mayor Philip K. Stoddard.
The law also instructs local governments and law enforcement agencies to use their “best efforts” to support federal immigration laws without defining what that means. The lawsuit argues that is unconstitutionally vague because it is unclear how “best efforts” will be defined, or who will define it.
Judge Bloom is expected to rule before October 1.