Agriculture Commissioner: ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Bill Would Hurt Florida Farmers

Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried is taking a stand against a bill that would ban sanctuary cities across the state.

The Tampa Bay Times published an op-ed by Fried where she broke down the numbers and made her case to eliminate the bill.

“Over 54 percent of Florida’s immigrants work in farming, fishing, or forestry. They make up more than 45 percent of the workforce in those industries,” she wrote. “Targeting immigrants would create lasting damage to businesses and industries throughout our state’s economy.”

There are no sanctuary cities in the Sunshine State, but the bill would ban their creation. The bill would also force local governments to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. If the requests to hold undocumented immigrats at the local jails are ignored, the local governments could face a fine of up to $5,000 per day.

Fried believes the alienating message the bill sends would drive a wedge throughout Florida communities without a real solution.

“We don’t need divisive rhetoric on the backs of immigrants. What we do need – if we’re serious about putting America and Florida first – is comprehensive reform that fixes our flawed immigration system and allows people coming to pursue the American dream a fair opportunity to do so,” she said.

Rep. Mike Caruso argues that the bill is about safety for the law-abiding residents of the state.

“This bill is not about removing illegals from the state of Florida,” he said. “This bill is about protecting the citizens of the state of Florida. This bill is about protecting even illegals in the state of Florida.”

Fried is fighting an uphill battle, it seems, after a recent poll revealed that 52 percent of Floridians support SB 168.

She hopes highlighting the importance of immigrant workers in Florida fields could sway some of that public opinion.

“More than 20 percent of Floridians are immigrants; one-fifth of them are undocumented. Immigrant households strengthen Florida’s economy, with $73 billion in spending power. Nearly 30 percent of Florida’s self-employed business owners are immigrants. And immigrants in Florida pay nearly $17 billion in federal taxes and $6 billion in state taxes,” she wrote.

Fried also took the opportunity to put a spotlight on the vital work immigrants are doing after two powerful hurricanes damaged several parts of the state.

“This bill would leave many Florida businesses with significant workforce shortages, and place unnecessary burden on an agriculture community still working hard to rebuild from devastating hurricanes in 2017 and 2018,” she wrote. “In case anyone’s forgotten, Florida farmers in 25 counties are still recovering from the destruction of Hurricane Irma, where agricultural damages totaled over $2.5 billion; farmers in the Panhandle are still recovering from Hurricane Michael, which led to $1.3 billion in agriculture losses.”

In a separate battle, Fried argues the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is failing to protect Florida growers from the unfair exports of Mexican produce.

“This has resulted in billions of dollars in economic losses and job losses in the tens of thousands across the state,” she wrote.

She penned a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that outlined solutions in the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act. According to the bill’s sponsor, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, the bill would “ease certain thresholds to allow Florida farmers to petition the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate illegal subsidies and dumping of Mexican fruits and vegetables in the U.S. market.”