After months embroiled in emotional testimony, protests, controversy and national news coverage, Sen. Joe Gruters’ version of a bill to ban “sanctuary cities” in Florida passed 22-18 in the Senate Friday. Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami was the only Republican to vote against the bill.
The vote came after two days of impassioned floor debate by Democrats and Republicans alike, telling personal stories of their own family’s immigration or the stories of their constituents. The Senate gallery, filled with immigrant families, activists and children, nodded along for hours and cried out after the vote was called.
The Senate and the House, which passed its version of the bill Wednesday, still need to iron out differences in their proposals, particularly on a tougher stance taken by the House when it comes to penalties.
The House’s bill builds in a rule that local government employees or elected officials who permit sanctuary-city policies may be suspended or removed from office. The proposal also includes fines of up to $5,000 for each day that a sanctuary-city policy is in place. Identical bills must pass both chambers before hitting the governor’s desk. In this case, differences will have to be negotiated and “bounced back” between the House and Senate until they come to an agreement on a piece of legislation.
While the House has tried to pass a similar ban the last four years, it died in the Senate the last time around. But Gov. Ron DeSantis has made “sanctuary cities” a key talking point from the start of his campaign to swearing in, an element Gruters says was key.
“That’s why this is moving forward,” Gruters said earlier this week. “It has opened up some doors that weren’t previously available.”