Florida defends immigration law

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TALLAHASSEE — Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Friday urged a federal judge to reject an attempt to block part of a new state law targeting people who transport undocumented immigrants into the state.

Lawyers in Moody’s office argued that U.S. District Judge Roy Altman should deny a request for a preliminary injunction sought by the Farmworker Association of Florida and individual plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in July.

The case centers on part of a broader immigration law that threatens felony charges for people who transport an immigrant who “entered the United States in violation of law and has not been inspected by the federal government since his or her unlawful entry.”

In seeking the preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs contend that federal immigration law trumps — or “preempts” — the state measure. Also, they contend that the state law is unconstitutionally vague.

But Moody’s office Friday tried to refute the arguments, in part focusing on the word “inspected” in the law.

“The challenged statute prohibits knowingly transporting individuals across state lines — both aliens and U.S. citizens alike — when the federal government has had no opportunity to inspect them following an illegal border crossing,” the state’s lawyers wrote. “Inspections serve several important purposes, including screening for communicable diseases, searching for contraband such as illicit fentanyl and determining if a person is a threat to national security. A person who has not been inspected should be reported to the federal government, not intentionally moved across the country, and Florida’s law codifying that commonsense proposition is neither preempted nor vague.”

The document also said the plaintiffs’ concerns about the law are “simply misplaced.”

“Visa holders, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) recipients and aliens with pending applications for asylum or removal proceedings have all been ‘inspected’ because they have notified the federal government of their presence, and the federal government can decide whether to take immediate action,” the state’s lawyers wrote.

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