Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R) released an immigration ad so racist this week that at least one publication is comparing it to the 1915 pro-KKK film Birth of a Nation.
In a campaign-style ad paid for by Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC, a white woman is seen texting and walking down a street when a hooded, bearded man walks by, draws a gun, and turns around. He shoots her. As this scene unfolds, an ominous voice narrates that the woman was “gunned down by an illegal immigrant who should have been deported but was protected by a sanctuary city.”
Corcoran comes on in the next scene and says that the portrayal was reminiscent of the death of Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old woman who was shot and killed in San Francisco in 2015 by an undocumented immigrant.
“This could have happened to any family, anywhere,” Corcoran said. “Incredibly, some Tallahassee politicians want to make Florida a sanctuary state. On my watch, Florida would never be a sanctuary state. ”
“Sanctuary cities” has become a politically-charged, derogatory phrase referring to places where local law enforcement departments can decline to turn over suspected undocumented immigrants to federal authorities for potential deportation proceedings if there is no warrant. The issue became a big deal in 2015 when Steinle was fatally killed by a bullet as she took a walk with her father on a San Francisco pier. An undocumented immigrant — who had previously been deported five times and was released by the local San Francisco police but not turned over to federal authorities for deportation — fired the gun that killed her. A jury in California reached a “not guilty” verdict for Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, finding it credible that the bullet ricocheted off the concrete ground before striking Steinle, pointing to an unintentional killing. He was acquitted of all murder and manslaughter charges, but did receive a conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and other Republican lawmakers seized onto Steinle’s death as a welcome reason to pass tough immigration policies that would force local law enforcement departments to turn over undocumented immigrants for potential deportation proceedings.
Corcoran, who said he would decide whether he would run for governor after the legislative session ends in March, has been rallying support for a bill that prohibits sanctuary cities in Florida. There are currently no sanctuary cities in the state.
Corcoran’s ad bears striking similarity in tone to other Republican-led attacks against sanctuary cities. Then-presidential candidate Trump released an ad in 2015 featuring undocumented criminals who killed Americans. Last year, two Republican gubernatorial candidates from Virginia and New Jersey separately released ads linking undocumented immigrants with criminals and killers.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, law enforcement officials in major cities like Houston, Texas, Los Angeles, California, and Illinois are receptive to “welcoming” cities where immigrants who come in contact with local police are not additionally flagged for federal deportation proceedings. In those cities, relationships improve when immigrant communities are able to work together with the police to identify criminals without having to fear that they themselves will be deported.
The ad itself is curious for one other issue. Corcoran should really know better than to conflate the actions of a few bad immigrants with that of the whole population. As Miami Herald’s Fabiola Santiago pointed out, Corcoran is Canadian by birth.