The law in question, FL SB 1718, allows authorities to charge someone with human trafficking if they knowingly transport an undocumented migrant across state lines. And it would prohibit an undocumented immigrant from driving a car even if they have a driver’s license from another state and requires state hospitals that receive Medicaid to ask patients of their immigration status.
It “put thousands of Floridians and residents of other States—both citizens and noncitizens alike—at risk of being arrested, charged, and prosecuted with a felony for transporting a vaguely-defined category of immigrants into Florida,” the lawsuit alleges. “Families may be unable to visit each other across state lines. Parents who live near the state border may be unable to drive their children to medical appointments or soccer matches.”
The lawsuit was brought by several groups, including the American Immigration Council, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU Foundation of Florida on behalf of Farmworkers Association of Florida, a non-profit farmworker membership organization with nearly 12,000 members who are both documented and undocumented.
It also has nine other unnamed plaintiffs, including one who is a U.S. citizen who serves as a director of a nonprofit organization based in southern Georgia. This plaintiff, as an example, transports immigrants of varying statuses to see medical specialists across state lines to Jacksonville yet now fears possible felony charges “for performing a key aspect of her job, and for doing what she believes to be morally just,” according to the lawsuit.
The groups contend Florida’s law should be considered unconstitutional for going “far beyond” federal immigration policies and “penalizing a wide array of conduct that Congress chose not to prohibit.”
“It impedes the federal immigration scheme by preventing immigrants from entering Florida,” the lawsuit alleges. “And it puts state officials in the unlawful position of making complex determinations about people’s immigration status and history.”
DeSantis and his Republican allies contended during Florida’s session that the immigration crackdown would send a “message” to the Biden administration. The law also included $12 million for Florida to transport migrants from outside the state to Democratic strongholds, a controversial policy deployed by the governor and other leaders like Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who bused hundreds of migrants to cities like Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York.