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Florida grand jury calls on state to track immigration status of arrestees in response to migrant crisis

A Florida grand jury is calling for legislation to track the immigration status of those arrested in the state, after a lengthy report documenting the effects of the migrant crisis.

A Florida grand jury empaneled after a request by Gov. Ron DeSantis to investigate human smuggling networks is calling for legislation to track the immigration status of those arrested in the state, as well as increased sentences for those who commit crimes after previously being deported.

"We believe Florida should begin tracking data regarding the immigration status of arrestees, and mandate its reporting to [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] for retention and publication," the grand jury’s fifth report says. "We recommend that our leaders adopt a law requiring the Department of Corrections, each County Sheriff, and the Chief of Police of any law enforcement agency in this state to provide such data to FDLE along with the other data they are already sending."

DeSantis filed a petition last year to the Florida Supreme Court, requesting it "impanel a statewide grand jury to examine international human smuggling networks that bring aliens to the southern border, and ultimately to Florida."

Previous reports have been scathing of the handling of the crisis by the federal government, including accusing the Biden administration of a "complete abdication of responsibility" for the welfare of children.


This report, coming after 450 hours in session and more than 100 witnesses, said its mandate is not to rewrite federal law, but to explore the impact of any criminal activity on the state.

"The short answer is that there are most certainly crimes being committed, including by some of our fellow state residents, which abet transnational and local criminal organizations and individuals in their trafficking of people (including and especially children), criminal actors, fraudulent documents, and drugs into our state, extracting money in return," it says. 

"These crimes are sometimes actually enabled by governmental agencies, policies, and activities; and there are things that can be done about them. We are also convinced that, because the driving forces are largely federal policies, and political incentives seem to not prioritize solving the problems, it will be up to Florida and other states to help themselves, at least in the short term."

The lengthy 146-page report, which outlines an exhaustive list of crimes committed by smugglers and alleged dangers to the homeland, accuses non-governmental organizations of magnifying the "magnetic illusion of economic prosperity at the end of a migratory trek" by offering assistance to migrants. 

"We have seen charts and advisory pamphlets showing aliens possible routes of travel (none of which warn, for example, that the territory about to be entered is controlled by violent cartels) handed out by NGOs," the report says. "We have seen makeshift and expanded ‘camps’ set up as way stations in the middle of places like the Panamanian jungle to help ferry aliens up the Central American peninsula."

It also cites reports of exploitation of migrants by cartels who are overseeing the migratory routes and helping migrants make their way to the border. It also points to evidence of child labor violations and other crimes related to smuggling including exploitation, as well as the large number of "special interest aliens" coming into the U.S.

"Absent the overheated rhetoric from all political angles, the situation truly is not complicated; individuals from other countries are enticed to come to this country, the overwhelming majority with no plausible claim to asylum whatsoever, and serious harm results on both sides of our border as the situation is exploited for crime and profit by cartels, funding by NGOs, and political clout-chasing by others. All the while, we and our fellow taxpayers pick up the tab."

Ultimately, the grand jury found that Florida "should wait no longer to protect its interests, its residents, and its immigrant population from the problems we have described."

It recommends another grand jury be formed to investigate NGOs and provides other recommendations -- including a requirement that sponsors of unaccompanied children who are not parents or guardians be subject to a formal legal determination.

The report also recommends "adding a sentencing enhancement provision…which would increase the exposure for those who have been previously deported and return to commit a felony offense in our state." Separately, it says the cartels should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.

Florida's legislature passed a sweeping anti-illegal immigration bill which includes provisions to bar driving licenses to illegal immigrants, mandate E-Verify, enhance penalties for smuggling and require hospitals to collect data on the cost of providing healthcare to illegal immigrants.


In a statement, Attorney General Ashley Moody said the report marked a "damning indictment" of the failure of the federal government to protect the border and the unaccompanied children being smuggling into the U.S.

"Not only is the administration jeopardizing the safety of unaccompanied minor children—they are letting terrorists and immigrants from countries of concern into the interior of the U.S.," she said. "I want to thank the members of the Statewide Grand Jury for their dogged pursuit of the truth and for bringing to light how the Biden administration’s dangerous immigration policies are harming vulnerable populations."

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has said it is working within the confines of a "broken" immigration system and has called on Congress to provide more funding and comprehensive immigration reform to fix that system.

Most recently it made a $14 billion request to Congress that would include migrant services and housing, anti-fentanyl technology and more border agents. It also includes money for DNA collection and over $1.9 billion for Health and Human Services "to support eligible arrivals and unaccompanied children."

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