A courthouse in Florida
A courthouse in Florida Reuters

The federal judge who temporarily blocked the enforcement of SB 1718, a Florida law criminalizing the transportation of undocumented people into the state, seemed to reverse course just hours later, issuing a conflicting order that has generated confusion in the territory.

"We now invite further briefing on the proper scope of the injunction," said Judge Roy K. Altman on Thursday afternoon. He had initially said the measure would apply statewide, but the order now casts doubt of its actual reach.

In that context, he invited the attorneys on the case (state Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Farmworker Association of Florida) to present arguments regarding what the extent of the order should be.

Prior to the new order, the American Civil Liberties Union had applauded the ruling by saying: "Section 10 has put thousands of Floridians and residents of other states -citizens and non-citizens- under at risk of arrest and being charged with grave felonies for transporting a vague category of immigrants into Florida, even for something as simple as driving a family member to a medical appointment or on holiday."

According to The Miami Herald, the state's Highway Patrol has arrested at least 11 people under the statute, and more have likely been carried out in local jurisdictions. The outlet recalled the case of a Mexican national who has been in jail for six months after being detained driving six other people from the country from Georgia.

The Farmworkers Association filed the suit against the law saying it "not only violates the fundamental rights of people in the state, but also undermines their cultural richness and economic contributions."

Judge Altman, on his end, initially rejected the suit's argument about the law being vague and therefore unconstitutional, but upheld the one claiming that the state was taking over the federal government's authority on immigration matters. It is unclear now how pending cases being prosecuted will proceed.

To back his new decision, Altman cited a debate over universal injunctions, which can suspend the enforcement of a government policy. Florida asked, in contrast, that it only be applied to plaintiffs with standing in the case.

The judge didn't discuss the merits of the law but asked the parties to explain why the order should only apply to plaintiffs, South Florida or the state as a whole. The parties now have until June 6 to present the arguments for the judge to determine the extent of the law.

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