A Florida anti-immigration bill with language so severe it could make Donald Trump sound like Hugo Chávez is advancing through the Florida House right now.
House Bill 1095, dubbed the “Prevention of Acts of War,” would give Florida governor Rick Scott — or any of his successors — the authority to use military and police force to keep people out of the Sunshine State.
The bill was approved in committee yesterday with a party-line 9-4 vote, with Republicans pushing the bill through the first of three sub-committees.
The bill wasn’t even debated because Democrats on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee found it so laughable.
“It’s hard to dignify a bill like that by debating it,” Democratic Rep. Dave Kerner of Lake Worth told the Associated Press. “It’s unconstitutional, it’s offensive, it does nothing for the safety and protection of our state and it’s highly ineffective and very subjective. I could go on for hours about problems I have with the bill.”
The bill — which would allow the governor to ban immigrants or refugees from any country he deems dangerous — would also prohibit any Floridians receiving any kind of state assistance — including Medicare or welfare, even if they qualify for such programs under state and federal law. The bill’s language would also give the Florida Department of Law Enforcement authority to monitor immigrants and refugees who have entered the country and state legally.
Republican Rep. Lake Ray of Jacksonville authored the bill with 12 other co-sponsors, including Florida representative Doug Broxson, whose district includes northern Okaloosa County and Santa Rosa County counties.
In justifying the bill, the sponsors used language in the Florida constitution that gives the governor the right to “use all military forces not in active service of the United States, including the general militia, to defend the state.”
It’s unknown if the bill’s language is actually constitutional. A constitutional analysis by state staff cited U.S. Supreme Court positions that disclosed the “power to regulate immigration. . .is unquestionably exclusively a federal power.”
The staff analysis goes on to cite a Supreme Court position that “only the federal government has the authority to decide which aliens should be admitted to the United States as refugees.”
It continues, “The Court. . .has made it clear that, whatever may be the scope of the constitutional right of interstate travel, aliens lawfully within this country have a right to enter and abide in any State in the Union ‘on an equality of legal privileges with all citizens under nondiscriminatory laws.”
House staff acknowledge the bill will have “a negative fiscal impact on state government expenditures,” resulting from increased government resources used to enforce such a law.
The bill is just the latest anti-immigration bill headed through the state capitol in this year’s legislative session and must pass two other committees before seeing its day in the Florida House. A similar Senate bill (SB 1712) has yet to be scheduled for discussion.