TALLAHASSEE — Migrant workers and their lawyers filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging a new Florida law that makes it a felony to bring people into the state illegally into the country, arguing that the law is vague and will lead to “unlawful arrests, prosecution and persecution.” ”
The law, championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is among the measures taken by the state’s Republican leaders against immigrants entering the country from Mexico.
The measure, passed during the legislative session this spring, included changes to the human smuggling law to make it a felony to bring into the state a person “who the person knows or reasonably should know” who entered the country illegally.
The law imposes fines on people who are transporting an immigrant who “entered the United States in violation of the law and has not been subject to scrutiny by the federal government since his or her illegal entry.” People can be charged with a second-degree felony for each violation.
But the lawsuit, filed in Miami, argued that what is known as “Section 10” of the law does not include the definition of “tested” and is therefore “hopelessly vague and incoherent.”
“Section 10 is worded in such a way that it may cover all immigrants, including people who are legally in the United States or who are in the process of seeking legal immigration status. The law does not define the term “checked” and does not explain what it means to be checked “from the moment” of entry,” the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs include the Florida Farm Workers Association, Inc., as well as migrant workers and attorneys named by their initials. One of the plaintiffs, who works for a non-profit organization, is helping bring immigrants from Georgia to Jacksonville to meet with USCIS officials.
The other plaintiff, identified as “CA,” is a US citizen who lives in Miami and is the legal guardian of his grandson, who was brought to the US by his mother “who fled the country in fear for her life.” to the legal process. Grandson K.A. is in the process of applying for so-called “special immigrant minor status” and he and his mother had “no contact with federal immigration authorities” when they entered the US, the lawsuit says.
The law can prevent friends and family members from visiting each other, prevent parents from seeking medical care for their children, and prevent church members from bringing their fellows to worship, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also argued that state law would “usurp powers constitutionally vested exclusively in the federal government.”
“This federal structure is all-encompassing and does not allow for parallel or additional state immigration laws, including laws on smuggling and smuggling of non-citizens,” the lawsuit says.
DeSantis, the 2024 Republican presidential hopeful, has focused on immigration issues on the southern border with Mexico as one of his top concerns since he was first elected governor in 2018.