During the 2016 election cycle, the topic of so-called "sanctuary cities" was a hot-button issue in several races, and now the Florida Legislature is considering a bill that would remove shields put in place by cities that have protections for illegal immigrants.

During a recent House session, State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) talked about the relative strength of the proposed legislation.  Smith noted the following:

If Florida bill HB 697 - punishing sanctuary cities - becomes law "it will be the only law of its kind in the nation."

Our partners at PolitiFact Florida wanted to know if that was actually the case.  PolitiFact reporter Joshua Gillin says that Smith's statement rates MOSTLY TRUE on the Truth-O-Meter.

"First off, we have to establish that there's no legal definition of the term 'sanctuary city,'" said Gillin.  "Generally speaking, though, it's where a city or a town's local law enforcement doesn't necessarily work with federal law enforcement when it comes to immigration issues."

When it comes to the proposed legislation, Gillin notes that the language is pretty clear.  "The bill that's being considered says that county and local law enforcement agencies must comply with and support enforcement of federal immigration laws," said Gillin.  "Any local jurisdiction that doesn't comply will then face stiff penalties, including losing grant funding for a period of five years."

PolitiFact reached out to experts across the country to see if there was similar legislation already in place.  "What we found was that no other state has a law on the books with the kinds of penalties that this proposed law would impose on violators," said Gillin.

Gillin notes that the bill hasn't passed yet, but if it were, it would be in a league of its own when it comes to 'sanctuary cities' legislation and penalties when compared to existing legislation in other states, which leads to a MOSTLY TRUE ranking on PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter.


SOURCES: Sanctuary cities legislation

  • PolitiFact ruling
  • Email interview, Ann Morse, director, Immigrant Policy Project, National Conference of State Legislatures, March 28
  • Email interview, Monica Varsanyi, an associate professor at political science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, March 28
  • Email interview, Avideh Moussavian, a policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, March 29.
  • Email Interview, Bill Hing, professor of law, School of Law, University of San Francisco, March 27
  • Email interview, Kevin Johnson, dean and professor of immigration and refugee law, University of California - Davis School of Law, March 27
  • Email interview, Gabriel "Jack" Chin, immigration law scholar at the University of California-Davis, March 27
  • Email interview, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, March 27
  • Interview, Ida V. Eskamani, legislative aide to Rep. Smith, March 23
  • Interview, Rep. Metz, March 28
  • ACLU, immigration detainers
  • Texas state legislature online, SB 4
  • NCSL, Sanctuary City FAQ
  • The Indy Channel, "In Indiana, no 'sanctuary cities' thanks to 2011 law," Jan. 26
  • Florida House, HB 697, filed Feb. 7