Column: Legislature should ban sanctuary cities in Florida

In 2015, Kate Steinle was gunned downed on Pier 14 in San Francisco by an illegal alien with five felony convictions, and last week he went on trial for his heinous act. He was in our country because the city of San Francisco, among a growing number of others, is a sanctuary city. Elected officials instruct police and law enforcement to ignore federal immigration law.

This anti-American phenomenon must be stopped, and here in Florida we're doing something about it.

The truth is, something should have already been done. Unfortunately, California responded to that tragedy recently by declaring itself a sanctuary state — a disgusting affront to the rule of law and to the murder of that young woman.

However, if you're wondering whether that could happen here in Florida, my response is simple: Not on my watch. Last week the Florida House introduced HB 9, a bill that prevents sanctuary cities from ever plaguing our state.

Our bill is simple: State and local governments must comply with and support the enforcement of federal immigration laws — end of story. Any elected officials who think they can circumvent the Constitution and the laws of our nation will face significant penalties, along with suspension or removal from office.

Some critics claim sanctuary cities make our communities safer because illegal aliens are more willing to engage with police and report crime. However, a study from the University of Riverside, California, across 55 cities found "no statistically discernible difference in violent crime rates, rape, or property crime."

Moreover, after Phoenix dropped its sanctuary policies, crime plummeted. According to Fox News, the murder rate fell by 27 percent, while robberies, assaults, burglaries and theft all fell by double digits as well. Imagine that — enforcing the law works!

The liberals and pro-amnesty crowd will also be out, trying to smear our effort as uncompassionate, but they're wrong. We have compassion for all people. However, as an elected official, my compassion starts with the citizens of this state and the laws of this nation.

America is the most compassionate nation to ever exist, and we've done more to advance the global well-being of our neighbors than anyone. But if we are unable to protect our own citizens and the rule of law, our society can't survive.

Coincidentally, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., introduced a similar bill last week in Washington to cut off federal funding to cities and states that provide amnesty to these criminals. And I applaud her efforts on immigration and sanctuary cities.

However, I fear her bill's fate in Congress is tied in a similar fashion to the fate our bill: What will the Senate do? Both here in Florida and in our nation's capital, Republicans control the upper chambers. Yet, while we push a bold conservative agenda through the House, the Senate all too often stymies our progress and reneges on their promises to voters.

However, I am hopeful that the tide is turning. I am hoping that when our legislative session begins, the Senate will help us and stand up to anti-American, pro-amnesty liberals by saying, "No more!"

Because the truth is, if they don't — if they continue to make promises on the campaign trail that go unfulfilled — they won't be coming back for another term. The 2018 election is right around the corner, and what they do over the next few months will play an important role in their political future.

We have the opportunity to put our citizens and our laws first. The Florida Senate should be ready and willing to pass HB 9, because not another American should die at the hands of a criminal illegal alien.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is a Republican from Land O'Lakes.