Vigil Harvey Ward

At a recent Gainesville protest, City Commissioner Harvey Ward asked the crowd to support the city joining the lawsuit. 

The city of Gainesville decided at a city commission meeting on Thursday that it will not be joining the lawsuit against the Florida law that bans sanctuary practices.

SB 168 was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 14. The law went into effect on July 1.

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said the city attorneys reviewed the lawsuit and concluded the city could not make the same arguments because the bill does not interfere with Gainesville Police policies.

“It does not change the way our department does business,” said Jorge Campos, spokesperson for GPD. “It does not cause us to change our current policy and how we interact with people of undocumented status.”

GPD policy states the police department is not required to enforce federal immigration laws. The policy was revised on June 17 and there are no pending changes to it, Campos said.Because the city does not have a jail, it does not deal with ICE detainers like the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office does, he said.

The commission approved a resolution with a policy stating any city employee must notify the city commission if asked to help with immigration enforcement operations, Hayes-Santos said.

“At that point if we did get the request, we would probably have standing to file a lawsuit against the Senate bill, and I think the city commission would,” Hayes-Santos said.

Commissioner David Arreola said he was disappointed by the commission’s decision not to join the lawsuit.

“I’m very disappointed that my colleagues did not put their money where their mouth is,” Arreola said. “They all can say that they are concerned about immigrant safety but not joining this lawsuit is the exact opposite.”

Arreola said many advocates who have fought for the immigrant community are disappointed by the decision.