In the face of an unprecedented wave of illegal migration unleashed by the Biden administration, the Florida Legislature is poised to enact legislation aimed at deterring migrants from taking up residence in the Sunshine State. Curbing illegal immigration was a key promise Gov. Ron DeSantis made to voters last year, who rewarded him with a landslide reelection victory in November.
Florida is already shouldering $8 billion a year in costs associated with illegal immigration, and preventing that burden from growing even larger would seem like a prudent step. Not to everyone, however. To the small, but vocal minority that seem to oppose every effort to prevent large-scale illegal immigration, the bills making their way through the Legislature present another opportunity to manufacture hysteria.
Conjuring the most absurd and unlikely scenarios, the stridently open-borders New York Times gives voice to critics’ speculative and exaggerated concerns that “the bills will sow fear [and] promote racial profiling,” and factually incorrect assertions that, under the legislation, “police officers are charged with determining who is documented and who is not.”
But that’s milquetoast compared with the reaction of religiously inspired social justice advocates. Christianity Today warns, in the most dire terms, “Churches may face criminal penalties for giving undocumented immigrants rides to worship services and Bible studies,” or even “transporting immigrants to hospitals, doctors’ appointments, attorneys’ offices, and schools.” The danger is not merely the prospect of Florida law enforcement departments in hot pursuit of church buses transporting people to Tuesday Night Bingo, but rises to the level of “a threat to religious freedom” in Florida, according to some activist religious leaders.
In fact, what House Bill 1617 and Senate Bill 1718 are targeting are criminal cartels that engage in human smuggling and human trafficking, by making these practices prosecutable under state law. The benefits of cracking down on these abhorrent practices – that the federal government has been turning a blind eye to under the Biden administration – would seem to far outweigh the prospect of some overzealous cop deciding to run a check on the immigration status of the church choir.
Moreover, in a 2012 ruling, Arizona v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a provision of a state law that allows local police to check people’s immigration status in circumstances where an officer reasonably suspects that other criminal offenses are being committed. Eleven years hence, none of the predictions that racial profiling would ensue have come to fruition.
The Times also frets about provisions that would require hospitals “to collect data on the immigration status of patients” and “submit[ting] it to the state,” as though this information should be of no concern to the state, which more often than not winds up footing the bill. In fact, it would be governmental malpractice not to know how much providing healthcare to illegal aliens is costing taxpayers, if for no other reason than being able to budget for it, since the legislation does not prohibit care from being provided.
The bills, which are almost certain to reach Gov. DeSantis’ desk and be signed into law, also include other measures to safeguard state resources and protect the interests of legal Florida residents. Included in the legislation are provisions to punish document fraud and prohibitions against local governments issuing identification documents to illegal aliens; mandatory use of the federal E-Verify system to protect the jobs and wages of legally authorized workers; ending costly in-state tuition subsidies for illegal aliens at public colleges and universities, to name a few.
Far from being the leap into the dystopian abyss portrayed by open-borders advocates and their allies in the media, Florida’s enforcement-minded immigration legislation is a commonsense effort to spare the state from the consequences of the reckless border and immigration policies of the Biden administration. To critics of the Florida legislation and Gov. DeSantis who campaigned on these reforms, the real fear is that they will be effective and serve as a model for other states trying to push back against the corrosive effects of unchecked illegal immigration.
Ira Mehlman is media director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.