Senate panel moves Ron DeSantis priority cracking down on ‘midnight’ migrants

By Renzo Downey
January 26, 2022


A federal judge struck down part of the sanctuary cities law in September, but Republicans are taking another shot at immigration.
Senators have given the first legislative OK to a Gov. Ron DeSantis priority to crack down further on illegal immigration.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 along party lines Monday to approve a bill (SB 1808) expanding on a 2019 law that banned “sanctuary cities.” DeSantis announced the proposal last month after criticizing President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, including bringing flights to Jacksonville to relocate people who have entered the country illegally.

Florida State Senator Aaron Bean

The measure, carried by Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, would prevent transportation companies from doing business in Florida if they participate in programs transporting to the state people who have entered the country illegally.

In September, a federal judge struck down part of the sanctuary cities law, but Republicans hope to take another shot at the measure. The new bill would take effect immediately with DeSantis’ signature, which is likely.

Jacksonville has taken center stage as DeSantis has ratcheted his immigration agenda in opposition to the Biden administration. DeSantis’ shift to Jacksonville took place after law enforcement accused Yery Medina-Ulloa, an immigrant living in the country illegally who is 24 but identified himself as 17, of murdering a Jacksonville resident who was hosting Medina-Ulloa.

Bean, whose district includes part of Duval County, said Florida is aware of 78 early morning flights that have taken place in what he called a “midnight program of human smuggling.” Those companies would be put “on notice” for going against state law and would have to choose between doing business with Florida and the federal government.

Boca Raton Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky argued the bill’s consequences could include barring lawmakers or school sports teams from flying on American Airlines, for example. Bean argued that was precisely the bill’s intent.

“If they’re wishing to do it in the future with the state of Florida, we’re going to say, ‘No, you are not allowed to do business with the state of Florida because you’re engaging in this practice of bringing in illegal citizens in the dead of night without the state of Florida’s knowledge,’” Bean said.

Transporting immigrants without notifying Florida is illegal, he asserted.

“This is a way, I believe, that will force the federal government to address its immigration policies, as well as work with the states on the ferrying of such illegal aliens,” Bean said.

Florida officials aren’t alerted when the flights arrive, and they aren’t told where migrants are being relocated. The result takes a toll on state resources, he continued.

“They’re taking up slots that would be otherwise better given to educate our own children rather than these folks,” Bean said.

Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson, who represents Duval County alongside Bean, likened separating children from their families to slavery. She also compared the term “alien” to the N-word.

“These such bills really are designed … to create fear, dissension and in many cases, hate,” Gibson said. “We are better than the words that are on this paper, particularly as it relates to children.”

Estero Republican Sen. Ray Rodrigues asked why officials would be flying immigrants in the wee hours of the morning if there was nothing to hide.

“Our federal border policy is a disaster and illegal immigrants are being dispersed around the country so that attention is not drawn to them.”

The bill also would require that counties strike agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to participate in a program for local law enforcement officers to help with immigration enforcement. Many counties have already reached such agreements.

DeSantis appeared in Jacksonville earlier Monday, where most of Florida’s sheriffs endorsed his re-election bid for his “law and order” policies.

Stuart Republican Rep. John Snyder has filed an identical version of the bill (HB 1355) that hasn’t yet been slated for a hearing. The Senate version next heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

House Democrats criticized the measure during a Monday morning news conference. House Democratic Leader Evan Jenne said the action is likely unconstitutional and that law enforcement and taxpayers are “being deputized to fight Biden immigration policies.”

“I think definitely that Gov. DeSantis wants a profile on this issue that says he is anti-immigrant, and anything that can be done in order to bolster that … Florida’s Legislature will do whatever they can,” the Dania Beach Democrat said. “They will bend over backward in order to help him raise that particular aspect of his profile.”

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Nancy Dickson
Nancy Dickson(@nancyjackathenshotmail-com)
2 years ago

Shame on you Aaron Bean and all those who are choosing to persecute people who are seeking sanctuary in this country. Unless you are 100% Native American, you are all immigrants. Those whose ancestors came early stole land and killed the Native people whose county they invaded but our history books praise the newcomers for their ‘hard work and pioneer spirit.’
Today, farmers’ crops are rotting in the fields because no ‘legal’ folks want to do this work. Today, because of sickness, death from the pandemic, and low salaries, we are desperate for people to work at the lowest paid jobs. We have people coming to try to work those jobs and you want to persecute them, take their children away, lock them up, and use them as a political scapegoat. Talk to the folks who are desperate for workers, then look in the mirror and tell yourself why these barbaric policies are good for our country.

Merrillee Whren
Merrillee Whren (@guest_63699)
2 years ago
Reply to  Nancy Dickson

Nancy, it sounds like you don’t believe in the rule of law. There are federal immigration laws that should be enforced, not ignored. We welcome LEGAL IMMIGRANTS, not those who come here ILLEGALLY.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
2 years ago

Thank you, Nancy, for speaking truth to power. I would add that is our own governments’ incursions, both overly and covertly, that help create the horrible conditions in other countries that force people to flee. The great majority of people don’t want to leave their own neighborhoods, towns, and countries, but need to because of violence. Our own governments could help curb that violence, but Republican-controlled legislatures would rather help their friends and family make money off of them.

Mary Pikula
Mary Pikula (@guest_63679)
2 years ago

Thank you, Suzanne. I greatly appreciate your articles and reporting what’s going on that the major media don’t. Thanks

Joe Blanchard
Joe Blanchard(@jlblan2)
2 years ago

Interesting replies to this article. There are laws that have been passed by our representative State and Federal governments. They are expected to be enforced and complied with. Without that expectation, society would fall into chaos. The Federal Executive branch has chosen to violate those laws even though they have sworn to uphold the Constitution and those legally passed laws. Now, the sovereign state of Florida is attempting to uphold those laws and we have some citizens that appear to be happy with the Federal violation and not the state’s pending action. It matters not if you disagree with the law, you are expected to comply as a citizen of the country. In our country, you are able have it changed if you disagree with it. I know that if you violate the law and tell the judge that you are innocent because you disagree with that particular law, you will continue your discussion with a room mate at the local jail. Immigration is supposed to be an orderly legal process, not an invasion from one area to another. Just think, it the original inhabitants of North America had been able to enforce illegal immigration, we wouldn’t be here.

Sherry Harrell
Sherry Harrell(@sherry-harrell)
2 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blanchard

Thank you Joe, for your voice of reason when talking about facts!!

Charlie Gressman
Charlie Gressman (@guest_63686)
2 years ago

Thank you, Senator Bean and others, who are trying to uphold the laws and protections of our country.
It is shameful that you have to go to these measures, when in actuality, Washington should be looking out for our countries best interest at the borders.

It is no different than me having a door on my house in order to protect my family. It doesn’t mean that I dislike or hate everyone on the other side of that door, it just means that they need to knock and let me decide if they are welcome according to the values and security of my house and family. It should be no different at our borders, knock and then we can have an orderly process of our laws to determine your entry process.

Thank you again Senator for watching out for our family, The United States of America.

Charlie Gressman