State Legislatures in Florida and Texas Propose and Enact Harmful Immigration Bills

State Legislatures in Florida and Texas Propose and Enact Harmful Immigration Bills

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Usurping the role of the federal government, state legislatures in Florida and Texas have proposed multiple harmful immigration bills during this year’s legislative session.

Several Florida immigration bills passed while the Texas bills have—for now—not moved off the legislative floor.

Florida’s Immigration Bills

On May 8, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning Chinese nationals and other foreign nationals from buying real estate in the state of Florida. S.B. 264 restricts Chinese nationals from buying real estate in the state unless they are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

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The bill also makes it a felony for certain foreign nationals to buy real estate within 10 miles of military installations or other “critical infrastructure.” That law applies to citizens of China, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea.

On May 23, the ACLU and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) filed a lawsuit challenging this bill. The groups allege it violates the Constitution and the Fair Housing Act.

On the heels of the real estate bills, Governor DeSantis signed Florida Bill 1718 on May 9, 2023. This bill criminalizes transporting undocumented immigrants across state lines into Florida. (An earlier version of the bill made it a crime to transport into or within the state.) The bill also bars non-citizens from using valid driver’s licenses within the state of Florida that were issued in other states.

The bill also affects undocumented immigrants’ abilities to seek medical care, requiring hospitals and health care workers to report a patient’s immigration status if they are using Medicare.

Provisions of the Florida bill also seek to hold businesses civilly liable under state law. Businesses could be fined $10,000 fine for every undocumented employee they employ. The state could also revoke their business’ license. To highlight the economic impact of this law, immigration advocates staged a walkout across Florida on June 1, 2023, dubbed as “Un Día Sin Inmigrantes,” or a “Day Without Immigrants.”

Finally, the bill repealed a 2014 law that permitted undocumented immigrants to practice law in the state.

Both Florida Bill 1718 and the real estate bills take effect on July 1, 2023.

Texas’ Immigration Bills

In Texas, the legislature – for the moment – has not been as successful at passing harmful immigration bills. A group of bills died in the Texas state legislature last week, but there remain avenues for their revival.

One of those proposed bills—Bill H.B. 7—attempted to create a “Texas Border Force,” comprised of civilians deputized to carry out immigration enforcement under the authority of the Texas Rangers. The Texas Border Force would also have the authority to surveil and gather information on smuggling and improper entry into the United States.

Following the failure in the legislature, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called an immediate special session to address legislation “increasing or enhancing the penalties for certain criminal conduct involving the smuggling of persons or the operation of a stash house.” On June 2, 2023, the Senate referred three immigration bills to a committee to potentially move them to a vote.

It remains unclear if Texas will be successful in its last-ditch efforts to revive these laws and whether the Florida bills will withstand litigation. But this year’s legislative session signaled an alarming trend toward state bills expanding immigration crimes, penalties, and enforcement at the state level.

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