South Miami Mayor Explains Challenge Of Sanctuary Cities Law: 'It Interferes With Police Activities'

Jul 21, 2019

The city of South Miami and several other nonprofits, including the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth, have launched the first legal challenge to the new state law that bans so-called sanctuary cities in Florida.

The law – SB 168 – was passed during this year’s legislative session and requires local governments to comply with federal immigration authorities. Local officials who don't agree could be removed from office or even sued by the governor or Attorney General.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Caitie Switalski spoke with WLRN reporter Danny Rivero and South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard about the lawsuit.

WLRN: Why did South Miami decide to get involved in this and really lead the charge?

PHIL STODDARD: I need to back up and point out that there are no sanctuary cities in the state of Florida. They don't exist. South Miami is not a sanctuary city. South Miami has no interest in becoming a sanctuary city. The legislature might as well have banned unicorn sales in Florida. So we don't have a problem with the sanctuary cities aspect of it.

The real problem with this law, from our perspective, is that it reduces public safety in South Miami. It makes people not trust the police. It interferes with police activities. If our police are looking for a criminal, this law can require them to stop and go off and try to be ICE agents. There's real crimes that have to be solved by our police and prevented by our police.

I want to get a bigger picture here. Many immigrant rights groups see this ban on sanctuary cities as unconstitutional. Can you break that down?

DANNY RIVERO: At its base, part of it comes down to local control. The federal immigration offices and officers, when they want you to hold someone, they issue what's called a detainer request. Now if you ask any immigration attorney, or anyone that works in this space, it's pretty much universally understood to be a request. You don't have to abide by it, if you're a local government. It's your determination to make, if you're willing to take that risk, because there is a liability aspect of this. Basically what this law does is it it removes that that that discretion that local governments have.