Federal Judge Blocks Florida Law Criminalizing Transportation of Illegal Immigrants Into State

A federal judge in Florida has issued a temporary block on a portion of a state law that makes it a crime to transport illegal immigrants into the state.

The challenged law was approved by Governor Ron DeSantis a year ago, amid concerns among southern border states about a potential surge of illegal immigrants following the anticipated end of Title 42. This public health order empowered border enforcement agents to quickly remove individuals considered to pose a COVID-19 transmission risk.

Touted by Mr. DeSantis and his supporters as the “strongest anti-illegal immigration legislation in the country,” the law contains a provision that makes it a third-degree felony for anyone to “knowingly and willfully” transport into Florida someone whom “the person knows or reasonably knew … has not been inspected by the Federal Government since his or her unlawful entry.”

In a preliminary injunction issued Wednesday, Judge Roy Altman of the Southern District of Florida said the provision in question “extends beyond the state’s authority to make arrests for violations of federal immigration law, and in doing so, intrudes into territory that’s preempted.”

“In this case, any harm the state may suffer from an injunction is overweighed by the harm [the provision] poses both to the Plaintiffs and to the United States, which has the ultimate interest in protecting federal supremacy in the realm of immigration,” the Trump-appointed judge wrote.

The lawsuit was filed in July by the Farmworker Association of Florida, which describes itself as a “grassroots and community-based farmworker membership organization” serving seasonal workers as well as migrant workers who travel with the seasons to harvest crops.

The Association’s complaint outlines that its members frequently travel between Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, often crossing into Florida several times annually. However, with the enactment of the transportation law, the Association claims that some of its members have grown hesitant to travel with undocumented friends or family members due to fears of arrest or prosecution.

In response to the lawsuit, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, one of the defendants, has contended that the Association lacks the legal standing to file the suit. She further explained that individuals such as visa holders, DACA recipients (those brought to the U.S. illegally as children), asylum seekers, and those undergoing removal proceedings are exempt from penalties under the transportation law as they are deemed “inspected” by the federal government.

Judge Altman disagreed with her argument. In Wednesday’s opinion, he said the the way the law is worded gives the Association’s members a good reason to fear a potential arrest, and that they have “suffered an injury in fact,” even though they haven’t put themselves at risk of an actual arrest.

The judge also found that the Association has standing to sue. “An organizational plaintiff suffers cognizable injury when it is forced to divert resources from its regular activities to educate and assist affected individuals in complying with the challenged statute,” he wrote.

A number of prominent progressive advocacy groups threw their support behind the Association, including both the national and Florida chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Immigrant Justice, the American Immigration Council, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. They hailed the court’s decision as a “much-needed win for Floridians.”

“The court was right to block this callous and patently unconstitutional law, which had threatened Floridians with jail time for doing the most ordinary things, like going to work, visiting family, and driving kids to soccer games. This ruling is an important victory for Florida communities,” Spencer Amdur, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

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The Florida Attorney General’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Wednesday’s decision marks the most recent setback in the legal pushback against states aiming to tackle illegal immigration independently amid the escalating crisis at the southern border. The Biden administration has filed lawsuits against three states—Texas, Iowa, and most recently Oklahoma—for criminalizing illegal immigration as a state offense enforceable by local law enforcement.

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By Hunter Fielding
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26 days ago

It’s not a “legal” system anymore! Commies in black robes (Soros’ soldiers) are tasked with creating chaos! Corrupt government has turned the Law upside down!

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