Senate vote looms on sanctions for companies that bring asylum seekers to FL

By: - March 3, 2022 9:55 am

State Sen. Aaron Beach debates on the Senate floor on March 2, 2022. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

The Senate has set up a floor vote for legislation sought by Gov. Ron DeSantis to deny state contracts to “common carriers” who help transport “unauthorized aliens” into and around Florida.

The bill, part of DeSantis’ election-year case against President Joe Biden, whom he has accused of allowing “open borders,” even though the Democrat has continued some policies from the Trump administration — including the minors’ flights — could clear the floor as soon as Thursday.

SB 1808 would withhold state contracts and economic incentives to companies providing transportation services under the Biden administration’s border-crossing resettlement program, including air and bus charters.

“I wish we didn’t have to do the bill. I wish the federal government would step up to the plate and protect our border. That’s why we’re here — to send a message,” State Sen. Aaron Bean said during floor debate Wednesday evening.

During debate on Wednesday, the Senate rejected a series of amendments by Miami-Dade Democrat Annette Taddeo to create exemptions for refugees from Ukraine, communist regimes, and recipients of Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs.

However, Bean said the bill already would protect those people, defining “unauthorized alien” as “a person who is unlawfully present in the United States according to the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.”

The Senate killed another amendment by Democrat Gary Farmer of Broward County to require a study into the bill’s financial implications for businesses.

DeSantis and legislative Republicans cite what they number as at least 78 flights into Jacksonville International Airport delivering undocumented immigrants. During committee debate on the measure, Bean referred to these flights as “human smuggling.”

CNN has reported that these flights generally have involved unaccompanied minors being sent to group homes or sponsors while they await the outcome of their asylum claims, and they have gone on for years, including while Donald Trump was in office. The news organization noted that the governor’s office has acknowledged being briefed about the flights.

The bill would bar state and local governments from signing contracts with or offering economic incentives to carriers “willfully providing any service in furtherance of transporting an unauthorized alien into the state of Florida knowing that the unauthorized alien entered into or remains in the United States in violation of law.”

Carriers would sign attestations when signing to do state and local government work that they have not brought any unauthorized aliens into the state, Bean said.

Democrat Shevrin Jones, representing parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, pressed Bean to explain which immigrants he was targeting: unaccompanied kids joining family already in this country, for example?

“If they’re here lawfully, this bill doesn’t even apply to them,” Bean responded.

And, under questioning by Democrat Jason Pizzo of Miami-Dade, Bean acknowledged that federal law governs immigration policy and the state has no real power to intervene.

“We can’t stop it. Can’t stop it. But we can send that message, and that’s what the mission of this bill is,” Bean said.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.