State Watch

Florida bars state agencies from assisting with Biden immigration policies

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday sought to bar state agencies from assisting the Biden administration with its immigration efforts, including the transportation of migrants.

"Except as otherwise required by federal or state law, no Executive Agency under the direction of the Governor shall provide support or resources to, or in any way assist, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or any other federal department or agency, federal contractor, or non-governmental organization, in transporting to the State of Florida any aliens apprehended at the Southwest Border," DeSantis wrote.

According to DeSantis's order, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol are ordered "to detain any aircraft, bus, or vehicles that are transporting migrants into the state from the Southwest Border under state and federal law."

DeSantis also ordered the agencies to gather information on the identities of the migrants entering the state.

"It is necessary to collect additional data and information on illegal aliens who have resettled in Florida from the Southwest Border, the illegal alien population in Florida generally, and the impact of illegal immigration on the health, safety, welfare, and prosperity of Floridians," DeSantis said.

The order closely models one signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that barred anyone other than federal, state or local law enforcement from transporting migrants back to the border, effectively making it illegal to transport undocumented immigrants in a car.

Texas was sued by the Biden administration within a matter of days, arguing it violated the supremacy clause of the Constitution and "directly interferes with the administration of federal immigration law." A federal judge blocked the policy in late August.

"As part of the execution of U.S. immigration laws, there are a variety of circumstances in which noncitizens must be transported between locations," the Department of Justice wrote in its initial suit, noting that noncitizens "need transportation, frequently through privately arranged travel by bus or rail."

State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) told The Associated Press that DeSantis is using the order to "score political points" among his conservative base, saying that he has other issues to address.

"We have an affordable housing crisis, we have climate change to worry about, we have folks that can't find a good paying job. There's so many issues around us and this is what he chooses," Eskamani told the the AP.

DeSantis's order was paired with a lawsuit seeking to sue the Biden administration over releasing some undocumented migrants into the U.S. - a practice allowed under Title 8 in which migrants are permitted to enter the country to await a court hearing on their immigration status.

The suit argues that the law requires the Biden administration to detain "all arriving aliens, even those claiming asylum."

It goes on to claim that Title 8 authority under the Biden administration "is neither being used 'on a case-by-case basis' nor limited to situations presenting "urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit."

But a recent court ruling from the 5th Circuit noted that the administration has the discretion under the provision of the law cited by Florida to allow some migrants to enter the country to pursue asylum claims without holding them in immigration detention.