Concerned with spending local taxes to support children of illegal immigrants, Brevard County commissioners last week asked Florida state officials to oppose former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
Commissioner John Tobia, whose district includes the southernmost stretch of the county’s barrier island, won a 5-0 vote July 10 on his motion urging Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to join a multi-state lawsuit to overturn the 2012 policy.
“We’ve got to fix this,” Chairwoman Rita Pritchett said, noting Congress hasn’t been able to agree on a reform to the nation’s immigration policy.
The DACA policy began in 2012 with a presidential executive order. It allows some people, who were brought into the United States as children, when their parents entered illegally, to get a renewable 2-year period of deferral from deportation. Such people would become eligible for U.S. work permits.
Obama penned the executive order after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act, which would have allowed the same children of illegal immigrants to get legal status as American citizens. DACA doesn’t provide such a path to citizenship.
In his resolution, Tobia refers to the nonprofit Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) of Washington, D.C.
He said that organization cites $4,919 as the average state expense – such as healthcare costs, unemployment benefits and even the cost to make drivers’ licenses – for an illegal immigrant in Florida.
Statewide, Tobia added, such immigrants have racked up $6.3 billion in public costs.
“Through operation of state and federal law, many of these expenses are passed down to local governments such as Brevard County,” Tobia wrote.
Just how much has trickled down to the county, Tobia couldn’t say.
He said he couldn’t get county breakdowns from FAIR.
Further, Sheriff Wayne Ivey couldn’t be reached for an estimate of illegal immigrants’ costs to Brevard County.
President Donald Trump in September vowed to scrap DACA. But courts in April ordered him to restore it.
The resolution asks Florida to join the states of Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia in a lawsuit to challenge the lawfulness of Obama’s executive order.
While Tobia got a unanimous vote, most commissioners were lackluster in their support.
“I support it, but I don’t know how much of an impact this will have with the Attorney General’s Office,” said commission Vice Chairwoman Kristine Isnardi, whose district includes the Indialantic area.
Commissioner Curt Smith, whose district includes the area of Satellite Beach and Indian Harbor Beach, said the county really has no standing in national issues.
“It’s just like abortion or other national issues; we have no influence on it,” he said.
Tobia said the commission should forward the resolution to Brevard County’s delegation of state lawmakers, since they would have greater sway with Bondi.
Like Trump, the Brevard County commissioners are all Republican, while Obama was a Democrat.
Nobody from the county’s Democratic Executive Committee could be reached to comment on the commission’s action.
Meanwhile, neither Bondi nor her staff could be reached to comment on the likelihood of joining the multi-state lawsuit, or to say whether other counties have asked her to take part in it.
But in September, when Trump announced his plan to abolish DACA, Bondi supported the president.
“The highest duty of the president of the United States is to protect our citizens and uphold the Constitution, and President Trump’s decision demonstrates respect for the rule of law and compassion for children brought to our country illegally,” Bondi said in a prepared statement.