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PENSACOLA, Fla. () — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ petition to impanel a grand jury focused on illegal immigration and human smuggling has been granted by the Florida Supreme Court.
DeSantis asked that the jury be set up to examine networks that illegally smuggle people into the state as part of an investigation that also would focus on local government that he claims violates state law by adopting “sanctuary” policies.
The Republican governor announced the petition on June 17 at a news conference with law enforcement agents in Pensacola, where he also signed into law a bill that would require county jails to assist federal agents with immigration enforcement and prohibit state and local governments from doing business with contractors who bring into Florida people who are in the U.S. illegally.
DeSantis also said he intended to expand a strike force made up of state and local law enforcement agents that are tasked with stopping trafficking. The concept is being tested in several Panhandle counties.
“We aren’t a border state. People are wondering, ‘Why are you doing this?’” DeSantis said. “People will say, ‘Let Texas or Arizona worry about that.’ Let me tell you, people trying to come in illegally are trying to get to Florida.”
The statewide grand jury is expected to investigate parents who use professional smugglers to bring their unaccompanied children to live with them in Florida, traffickers who smuggle people in the country illegally into Florida and people and organizations that do business with traffickers, either directly or indirectly.
The grand jury also would be charged with investigating local jurisdictions that refuse to honor a request to detain people in the country illegally if they have been arrested for a crime. The governor’s petition specifically cited Miami-Dade County as refusing to honor these immigration detainers.
The Florida Legislature in 2019 passed a law banning so-called sanctuary cities but a federal judge last September blocked the state from enforcing it. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the city of South Miami and other organizations against DeSantis. The state is appealing the decision.
affiliate WFLA and The Associated Press contributed to this report.