Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis Courtesy of AFP

U.S. District Judge Roy Altman has blocked a section of Florida's controversial SB1718, which imposes restrictions and penalties meant to deter the employment of undocumented workers in the state and makes it a felony to "knowingly and willfully" transport an undocumented immigrant into Florida.

The block is pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed last summer by the Farmworker Association of Florida and other immigrant and civil rights groups.

The DeSantis administration, however, is pushing to lift the prohibition, asking the judge to reconsider his order and saying that the court never addressed its argument that the opposing parties did not claim that the law preempts federal law.

"As explained at the hearing, even if the individual plaintiffs had a valid cause of action to present their preemption claim (they do not), at a minimum, the Farmworker Association would not have a cause of action under federal immigration law to claim financial damages to its organization," states the Florida government in a document filed in court.

The lawsuit filed before the Southern District of Florida was introduced by the farmworkers' organization and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which on August 10 alleged that Section 10 of the law put thousands of people at risk of being arrested, charged, and prosecuted:

"Section 10 has put thousands of Floridians and residents of other states — both citizens and noncitizens alike — at risk of being arrested, charged and prosecuted with a felony for transporting a vaguely defined category of immigrants into Florida, even for simple acts such as driving a family member to a doctor's appointment or going on family vacation."

One of the criticisms of the lawsuit is that the definition of "person not inspected by the Federal Government" is imprecise, as an undocumented person may be in process with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

SB1718 was signed into law on May 10, 2023, by Republican Governor DeSantis, who was advancing his efforts to become his party's presidential candidate.

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