A Florida state senator proposes to impose a fine of up to $5,000 a day on officials of “sanctuary cities” who don’t follow federal immigration enforcement policies.

“In Florida, [sanctuary cities] enjoy sovereign immunity, meaning they’re shielded from being sued on any of their decisions in conducting their business,” state Sen. Aaron Bean, sponsor of the bill, told The Daily Signal. “The legislature, if this bill passed, would take away that and [sanctuary cities] would be able to be held responsible in court for their actions.”Representative_Aaron_Bean_dnd0618

Bean, a Republican who previously served in the Florida House, represents all of Nassau County and part of Duval County.

As of October, Florida has seven “sanctuary counties,” all in the Tampa and Miami areas, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

His bill, along with two others recently filed in the Florida state legislature, is “going to take a little pushback over illegal immigration in our state,” Bean, 48, said. He added:

We’re going to work on defining what a sanctuary city is. But we envision it [as] any city or county or municipality or entity that doesn’t cooperate. In fact, it could actually be a constitutional officer of a county that doesn’t cooperate with the federal government in tracking, enforcing, keeping up with illegal citizens … We would deem them as a sanctuary.

Bean’s bill, SB 872, was filed Nov. 17 in the Florida Senate. A section reads:

Upon adjudication by the court or as provided in a consent motion declaring that a state entity, state official, law enforcement agency, local governmental entity, or local government official has violated this chapter, the court shall enjoin the unlawful policy or practice and order that such entity or official pay a civil penalty to the state of at least $1,000 but not more than $5,000 for each day that the policy or practice was found to be in effect before the injunction was granted.

State Rep. Larry Metz introduced an identical bill,  HB 675, in the Florida House.

About 340 counties, cities and states nationwide have been deemed sanctuary cities that protect illegal immigrants from deportation—including criminals.

“Cities that provided sanctuary to illegal aliens are also providing sanctuary for criminal illegal aliens who, according to GAO reports, are repeat criminal offenders who victimize thousands of Americans,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, referring to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Earlier this year, Kate Steinle, 32, was shot to death by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco. The accused man had been deported five times, convicted of seven felonies, and was in the San Francisco County Jail on drug-relatedcharges a couple of months before the shooting.

“Cities providing sanctuary for criminal illegal aliens should be fined by the states to deter such misbehavior,” von Spakovsky said, adding:

The state legislature should also consider lifting the sovereign immunity of all city officials who implement sanctuary policies, so that citizens who are injured by criminal aliens can directly sue those officials for their actions in providing such criminals with safe havens in which to commit their crimes.

Bean said that, under his bill, a sheriff who lets an illegal immigrant out of jail “would be able to be sued and not have that immunity that he would enjoy otherwise.”

Some who defend sanctuary cities are worried that cities and other jurisdictions will pass laws that hurt illegal immigrants.

“Innovative regions of the world depend on ambitious, creative people who come from other parts of the world to contribute to our economy,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, a Democrat, told USA Today. “I think cities that become viewed as hostile toward immigrants will ultimately be forced to rethink their approach.”

Another bill filed in the Florida Senate, SB 750, would limit the amount of money that low-income households of illegal immigrants could receive from the state. A similar bill, HB 563, was filed in the Florida House.

The federal government gives Florida money to distribute to families. Florida subtracts the amount of benefits those families already receive, and other income, from the total benefits for which a family qualifies, Bean said.

“Right now, the state of Florida doesn’t recognize illegal citizens for what they earn, and so they get nothing subtracted,” Bean said. “Illegal citizen households are getting more in benefits than the traditional legal residents in our state.”

A third bill “ramps up the degree of charges” for illegal immigrants accused of commiting crimes, he said.

The next legislative session in Florida opens Jan. 12. Bean said he intends to make these bills top priority and “hopefully make our state a safer one.”

A “handful” of lawmakers will push to get the bills through the legislature, he said, noting that he has joined with Metz, state Sen. Travis Hutson and state Rep. Matt Gaetz.

“We think it’s just a shame the federal government hasn’t done its duty in defending our borders, enforcing our rules,” Bean said, “and that’s why we’ve decided as a state we’re going to step up and see what we can do.”


This is a guest post from the Daily Signal by Leah Jessen news reporter for The Daily Signal and graduate of The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program.