Long lines at Miramar immigration facility in March. Facebook screenshot.
The Florida Legislature is one vote away from approving a tough crackdown on undocumented immigration — a priority pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, though Democrats fiercely oppose the measure.
In the final days of the current legislative session, Democrats on the House floor on Monday tried to make changes to the immigration bill, (HB 1617), but the GOP-controlled House didn’t budge on 19 amendments.
Many of those amendments addressed the part of the immigration bill that would subject individuals who transport “knowingly and “willingly” undocumented immigrants into Florida. That would be a third-degree felony. If they transport a minor or more than five undocumented people into the state, the penalty would be a second-degree felony.
Miami-Dade County Democrat Dotie Joseph introduced an amendment that would exempt individuals from a charitable not-for-profit service provider, faith-based service provider or member of the clergy from penalties for transporting an undocumented immigrant into the state. But the amendment wasn’t adopted.
“This is about life,” said Joseph, the daughter of a pastor. “This is about recognizing that some of us respond to a call that is higher than the little vote buttons that we press in this room. This is about recognizing where you would fall if you were alive during the time of Nazi Germany and you had the option to be a Schindler or to be somebody to turn them in and leave them where they need to be to suffer, because they’re not legal based on the definition of this bill.”
Broward County Democrat Robin Bartleman targeted the same section of the bill regarding transporting an undocumented person into Florida, and presented an amendment that would exempt health care providers, emergency responders or a hospital staff member.
She brought up the scenario where an undocumented person is injured in southern Alabama or Georgia and the closest hospital is in Florida.
“I think this is really important because this is about life or death,” Bartleman said. “I just don’t want any chilling affects for our ambulance drivers or someone who needs to come to a hospital in Florida to get emergency treatment to be denied that treatment because everyone’s afraid to transport them under this law.” But that amendment wasn’t adopted either.
The measure will go back to the House for a floor vote on Tuesday. With the Senate passing their version of the bill last week, an affirmative vote by the House will send the measure to go the governor’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.
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