Florida sanctuary cities bill ‘neither loving nor compassionate’

This is an op-ed written by Faith in Florida leader Father Yves Geffrard. It has been posted here for sharing purposes. The original document can be found by clicking here.


Pope Francis wants us to “welcome, protect, promote and integrate” immigrants and refugees. Father Yves Geffrard of Fort Pierce believes Florida’s sanctuary cities bill goes against those teachings.(Alessandro Tarantino / Associated Press)

Fr. Yves Geffrard – Orlando Sentinel

For the past six years, Pope Francis has consistently challenged people of faith and all people of good will to open our hearts to immigrants and refugees.

From a Christian perspective, his words and actions on the subject are rooted in a foundational belief that, having been created in the “image of God,” every human being possesses dignity and has a moral claim on us to be treated with love and respect.

The dangerous journey of families risking all to flee their homelands today evokes the story of the holy family in their flight to Egypt as they, too, had to flee violence and the threat of death in their native land.

The moral and constitutional framework we have historically used in Florida to guide our treatment of immigrants and refugees would be undermined under the proposed Senate Bill 168. Known as the Federal Immigration Enforcement bill, the state measure would impose extreme hardships by effectively turning local and county law enforcement officials — and even school officials — into extensions of the federal immigration system, requiring them to report undocumented immigrants to federal immigration authorities.Such a move has previously been found to be unconstitutional and could turn everyday encounters with local police and school officials into a nightmare of family separation for countless members of our communities.

The bill, if enacted, will also erode trust between immigrant communities and local police and county sheriff departments and effectively diminish traditional crime solving efforts and community safety.

Fear of exposure to immigration authorities would shut down communication between residents and local law enforcement and ultimately make us all less safe. It seeks to build walls between us, even here in our local communities, and that has never been the Florida way.

Florida has always been a welcoming state. Our economy and culture benefit greatly from the contributions of immigrants and their families. We are farm workers, students, builders, servers, teachers, business owners, job creators. We raise the future generations of our state, we contribute to our economy and we also vote.

SB 168 is the product of the rising tide of toxic anti-immigrant rhetoric that seeks to demonize parts of our Florida family and make us afraid of one another.

It is important to remember this: Like immigrant families who left Ireland, Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe and Cuba in decades past, those coming today leave their countries because they are equally desperate, fleeing violence and crushing poverty. The British-Somali poet Warsan Shire has written, “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

I pastor a community of Haitian immigrants who have been able to make a life in the U.S. since the devastating earthquake of 2010 under the temporary protective status program, and I know the desperate conditions that await my members if they are forced to return to Haiti in the coming months.

Pope Francis calls us to “welcome, protect, promote and integrate” our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters. Love and compassion lie at the heart of the Gospel.

Because SB 168 is neither loving nor compassionate, I urge our legislative leaders and voters across the region to reject it.

Father Yves Geffrard is a Catholic priest at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Fort Pierce.