The Florida House opened debate Thursday on a Republican measure to penalize so-called 'sanctuary cities' that don't arrest undocumented immigrants that have been flagged for deportation by federal authorities.

  • HB 9 poised to pass in House Friday
  • Failure of cities to comply would result in $5,000/day fine
  • Elected officials could be removed from office

The legislation (HB 9) is poised to pass the lower chamber Friday, just four days into the 2018 regular legislative session. The timing of the vote underscores the importance of the bill for House Republicans, who failed to shepherd a sanctuary cities crackdown through the more moderate Senate last year.

With the upper chamber now reeling from a series of scandals and the resignation of former Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), a leading critic of many of the House's conservative priorities, supporters of the proposed crackdown believe they have the momentum.

Detaining known undocumented immigrants, the measure's champions argue, is a basic law-and-order function of local government that too many cities and counties aren't embracing. Under the bill, failure to do so would result in a fine of up to $5,000 per day and elected officials could be removed from office.

"Your lack of documents is not the issue. It is the fact that your first act upon entering this country was to break our laws," Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville) said at a recent committee hearing on the legislation.

Before the House convened Thursday, immigrant rights activists rallied against the crackdown in the Capitol rotunda. Many of them were either undocumented or, in the case of Orlando resident Mariana Castro, DACA recipients whose temporary legal status is nearing expiration.

"What this means is, you're basically criminalizing my family. You're basically saying that if my mom has to go to the hospital, these people can actually potentially deport her," Castro said.