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Miami-Dade police said they won't ask for paperwork in stops ahead of sweeping immigration law

The police department said its goal is to "protect" and not to get involved in a "political issue " like immigration, but that doesn't mean Florida's statewide agencies will do the same.
Cars along Ocean Drive January 24, 2022 in Miami Beach.
Police in Miami-Dade County have said they will not be asking drivers for documentation about legal status. Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

As Florida gets ready to implement a new sweeping immigration law this summer, Miami-Dade County police said they do not plan on pulling over drivers to require them or car passengers to show paperwork confirming anyone's immigration status.

The new law, set to go into effect in July, makes it a felony to "knowingly and willfully" transport an undocumented person in the state of Florida — even if it is a relative or someone one knows.

“We don't have to ask for identification that proves the immigration status of a person in the county because we are here to act on Florida statutes that are criminal, not civil," Álvaro Zabaleta, a Miami-Dade County police detective, told Telemundo 51, NBC's sister local TV station in Miami, in Spanish. "Immigration violations are considered civil, not criminal."

Zabaleta added that police will also not ask victims of a crime for information about their immigration status.

"We are here to protect our community," Zabaleta said. "We are not here to get involved in a political issue or a sensitive issue such as immigration."

Miami-Dade Police Chief Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez III, who is running for sheriff in 2024, "does not want to lose the trust of our community,” Zabaleta added.

Outside the county with the largest share of Latinos in Florida, statewide law enforcement agencies are getting ready to enforce the new law.

Some additional restrictions in the new law include invalidating out-of-state driver licenses issued to immigrants who lack legal status and requiring private employers with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify system to verify if new employees are eligible to work in the U.S.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which also includes highway patrol troopers, is tasked with citing undocumented people driving with invalid out-of-state licenses and maintain a list on its website of the kinds of out-of-state licenses that are not valid in Florida.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will coordinate and direct additional enforcement efforts, according to the law.

Florida highway patrol troopers will soon be receiving training on how to implement the law when stopping drivers for an infraction, Telemundo 51 reported.

Neither of the departments has yet responded to requests for comment on the kind of enforcement Floridians can expect from the respective agencies.

Leaders from the Miami Freedom Project, a progressive nonprofit advocating for immigrant’s rights, have said that the new law will make life harder for more than 770,000 undocumented immigrants living in Florida “as well as the many Florida residents who employ, rely on and assist them.

“This is not about detaining undocumented immigrants, it is about terrorizing families that are already here,” Ana Sofía Peláez, founder of the Miami Freedom Project, said in a press conference in Spanish last week.