DeSantis Signs Bill Targeting ‘Community’ IDs

TALLAHASSEE — After speaking behind a placard that said “stop illegal immigration,” Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed three bills that proponents argue will be deterrents to undocumented immigrants coming to the state.

The measures, approved during the legislative session that ended last week, seek to crack down on the use of what are known as “community” identification cards, strengthen criminal penalties for people who previously have been deported and stiffen punishments for repeatedly driving without licenses.

“We really appreciate what people are doing who are wearing the (law enforcement) uniform to help keep our communities safe. So I think these bills will go a long way to helping make their job easier and make them even more effective,” DeSantis said during a news conference at the Polk County sheriff’s office.

Perhaps the highest-profile bill (HB 1451) is designed to further curb community identification cards. The bill will prevent counties and municipalities from accepting community IDs if the cards were issued by groups that have provided such identification to people who are in the country illegally.

The cards, which typically are issued by non-profit organizations or other non-governmental groups, cannot be used for purposes such as driving or voting but are intended to serve as an alternative form of identification.

Broward County, for example, authorized the use of community ID cards in 2021. Legal Aid Service of Broward County runs the Broward Community ID Project, providing cards to people who can prove they reside in the county.

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“Any resident of Broward County can apply for a community ID card. This ID is especially useful to formerly incarcerated persons, foster youth, transgender persons, the homeless, new immigrants, refugees, or anyone who might face difficulties obtaining a state-issued ID. Immigration status will not be asked,” the organization’s website says.

Before signing the bill, DeSantis referred to community IDs as “rogue identifications.”

But during legislative debate last week, Democrats defended the use of community IDs.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said law-enforcement officials have backed the use of community IDs. Eskamani said the cards “can help residents who are experiencing homelessness” and “can help link some of our most-vulnerable residents to resources.”

Rep. Johanna Lopez, D-Orlando, said “restricting access to valid identification jeopardizes public safety.”

The bill builds on a measure approved last year that prohibited local governments from providing money for issuing identification cards to undocumented immigrants.

During the appearance Friday in Polk County, DeSantis also signed a bill (SB 1036) that will increase criminal penalties for immigrants who are arrested for felonies after illegally re-entering the U.S. following deportation for earlier crimes. Also, he signed a measure (HB 1589) that will increase penalties for driving without a valid license more than once.

“In the state of Florida, if you have been deported and you come to this state, and enter our state and you’re here illegally, and you commit crimes, we are throwing the book at you,” DeSantis said about the bill dealing with previously deported people.

DeSantis also said the driver’s license measure is a deterrent for illegal immigrants to travel to Florida.

“We don’t recognize drivers’ licenses from other states that have been issued to illegal aliens. So, that’s smart,” DeSantis said. “But you still have people that come and drive without a license. One of the big cures we can do for illegal immigration is to make sure people that are doing that are facing serious consequences.”

The ACLU of Florida, however, has argued that the drivers’ license measure “disproportionately impacts and targets undocumented immigrants who the state refuses to allow to obtain a valid Florida driver license, and thus forces them to subject themselves to criminal penalties for the simple act of driving their children to after-school activities or doctor appointments.”

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