Federal Judge Blocks Florida Law Criminalizing Transport of Undocumented Immigrants

florida-890553_1280A new week brings new immigration news. Recently, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking part of a Florida law that imposes criminal penalties on those who transport undocumented immigrants into the state of Florida, classifying such actions as felonies.

The order was made in response to a lawsuit filed by the Farmworker Association of Florida and seven individuals who feared traveling in and out of the state of Florida with undocumented friends and family members due to Florida’s controversial law.

In his ruling, Judge Roy Altman indicated that the Florida law is likely unconstitutional because the supremacy clause places the regulation of immigrants under the purview of the federal government.

In his preliminary order, the judge stated that Florida’s law is preempted by the federal government, “By making it a felony to transport into Florida someone who ‘has not been inspected by the federal government since his or her unlawful entry,’ [the law] extends beyond the state’s authority to make arrests for violations of federal immigration law and, in so doing, intrudes into territory that’s preempted.”

The judge further stated that any harm created by the injunction is outweighed by the harm suffered by the plaintiffs and the federal government. As a result, the Florida law will be halted until the judge rules on the merits of the case.

The order does not apply to other provisions of the Florida law which remain unaffected, which include Florida’s use of funds to relocate undocumented immigrants outside of the state, restricting access to state ID cards for undocumented immigrants, and requiring U.S. businesses to use an electronic system to validate a person’s authorization to work in the United States. The court order only applies to the portion of the law that criminalizes the transport of undocumented immigrants in the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which represents the plaintiffs praised the judge’s actions stating that the order, “recognizes the irreparable harm (the law) is causing immigrants, families, and their communities by unconstitutionally usurping the powers of the federal government to subject them to cruel criminal punishment.”

This development comes on the heels of the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma over an anti-immigration law calling for the detention of undocumented immigrants in the state.

Absent an injunction, Florida’s law would impact thousands of undocumented immigrants, as well as U.S. Citizens, who could be at risk of being arrested for mundane acts such as driving friends or relatives within the state.

To read the judge’s order for a preliminary injunction, please click here.

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