Judge Blocks Florida Law Barring Transport Of Migrants Into State

Florida Law Migrants' Transport

A District judge temporarily blocked part of a Florida law on Wednesday that imposes criminal penalties for willfully transporting people who lack legal immigration status into the state.

The law, which took effect in 2023, classifies such cases as felonies under the crime of human smuggling.

Judge Roy Altman cited testimony from plaintiffs who expressed fear of traveling in and out of Florida with their undocumented friends or family members due to the risk of arrest, prosecution, or family deportation.

Altman, appointed by former President Donald Trump, blocked the law pending the outcome of a lawsuit by the Farmworker Association of Florida and seven impacted individuals.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, made immigration a central theme of his failed presidential campaign and continues to prioritize the issue, which remains a top concern for voters ahead of the Nov. 5 U.S. elections.

The Florida law also allocates funds to move migrants without lawful status out of the state, restricts access to ID cards, and requires more businesses to use an electronic system to validate a person’s work eligibility. The litigation only challenged the part of the law dealing with the transport of migrants.

The governor’s office and the farmworker group did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Florida’s law is part of a nationwide effort by Republican officials to address the increase in illegal border crossings in recent years, which they say President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has failed to stem. Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma have passed laws allowing local officials to arrest, prosecute, and order the deportation of people lacking legal immigration status. The Biden administration and civil rights groups have sued to block those laws, arguing they interfere with federal enforcement of immigration laws, while several other states consider adopting similar measures.

Civil rights groups argue that Florida’s ban on migrant transport places thousands of people, including many U.S. citizens, at risk of arrest for simple acts like driving a relative to a doctor’s appointment or going on a family vacation. Altman stated on Wednesday that the law likely extends beyond the state’s authority to make arrests for violations of federal immigration law, intruding into territory preempted by U.S. law.