Federal judge temporarily blocks part of DeSantis immigration law

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily halted enforcement of a Florida law that makes it a crime to transport illegal immigrants into the state.

The law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in 2023, in part amends human smuggling statutes to make it a felony to bring individuals without lawful immigration status into Florida. 

U.S. District Judge Roy Altman issued a temporary injunction against that provision and in his decision cited testimony from plaintiffs that they were “now too afraid to travel in and out of Florida with their undocumented friends or family members – for fear of being arrested or prosecuted or of having their family members deported.”

Altman, who was appointed by former President Trump, blocked the law while a lawsuit brought by the Farmworker Association of Florida and several people who say they were impacted works its way through court.

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DeSantis has strongly opposed illegal immigration as both an unsuccessful Republican candidate for president in 2024 and as governor of Florida. Last month, his administration scored a victory after another judge dropped him and staff members from a lawsuit targeting coordinated flights of illegal immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in 2022.

The 2023 immigration law DeSantis signed funds that migrant transportation program, restricts access to ID cards, and requires more businesses to use E-Verify, a federal system that determines whether employees can legally work in the U.S. 

The lawsuit only challenged the provision related to transporting migrants.

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DeSantis’ office and the farmworker group behind the lawsuit did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Fox News Digital.

Republicans are staking strong positions against the increase in illegal border crossings seen under President Biden, a Democrat, as the November election approaches. There were a historic 2.4 million migrant encounters in FY 23, and that mark could be broken in FY 24, although monthly numbers have decreased, according to the latest figures from the Department of Homeland Security.

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The GOP has blamed Biden’s policies for the border crisis and Republican-controlled legislatures in Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma, in addition to Florida, have passed laws allowing local officials to enforce immigration laws.

The Biden administration and immigrant rights groups have sought to block those laws, arguing they overstep the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration law. 

Civil rights groups say Florida’s ban on migrant transport will place thousands of people, including many U.S. citizens, at risk of being arrested for simple acts such as driving a relative to a doctor’s appointment or going on a family vacation.

In his decision Wednesday, Altman said the law is likely unconstitutional because it “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” by the federal government. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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