Civil rights groups sue Florida officials over new immigration law

FILE - Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the Christians United For Israel (CUFI) Summit 2023, Monday, July 17, 2023, in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) (Jacquelyn Martin, Copyright 2023 All rights reserved.)

MIAMI – Several civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit on Monday challenging Florida's new immigration law.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, Americans for Immigrant Justice and the American Immigration Council filed the lawsuit in Miami federal court against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Statewide Prosecutor Nicholas B. Cox on behalf of the Farmworker Association of Florida and others, according to court records.

The legislation that DeSantis, a Republican, signed into law in May bolsters his migrant relocation program and limits social services for immigrants lacking permanent legal status. It also expands requirements for businesses with more than 25 staffers to use E-Verify, a federal system that determines if employees can legally work in the U.S. Another provision requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to include a citizenship question on intake forms.

The lawsuit specifically focuses on provisions that criminalize the transportation of individuals into Florida who may have entered the country unlawfully and have not been “inspected” by the federal government since. The complaint states it is unconstitutional for a state to unilaterally regulate federal immigration and subject people to criminal punishment without fair notice. It also asserts Florida’s use of the term “inspection” is incoherent and unconstitutionally vague.

DeSantis launched a campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination in May, playing up his tough stance against illegal immigration. DeSantis has sent Florida National Guard soldiers to Texas for border security and directed Florida to pay for charter flights carrying migrants from Texas to other parts of the country.

The governor's office didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the lawsuit on Monday. A spokesman for the governor's office previously has said the new law targets illegal immigration, not those who are in the U.S. legally.