The Florida Supreme Court has approved Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to form a grand jury tasked with investigating crimes related to illegal immigration, such as human smuggling.
According to the court’s order issued on Wednesday, jurors from the 10th Judicial Circuit, covering Hardee, Highlands, and Polk counties, will be drawn to sit on the panel with Chief Judge Ellen S. Masters as presiding judge.
The grand jury will be impaneled for 12 months to investigate various crimes, including immigration-related offenses such as human smuggling.
For example, the panel will be able to probe “parents, guardians or other family members of unaccompanied alien children who have conspired with transnational criminal organizations or other illicit actors to smuggle, and thus endanger, their children.”
It will also be able to investigate individuals or organizations “who are involved directly or indirectly, in transacting with TCOs, their members, or other illicit actors” to smuggle children or other illegal migrants into the state.
The court’s decision comes a few weeks after DeSantis filed a petition for a grand jury as part of additional steps the state is taking to address the border crisis under the Biden administration. The petition asked for a grand jury to “identify and investigate persons and international human smuggling networks that move illegal aliens, particularly children, across the southwest border” into the state, as previously reported.
In a press release earlier this month, the governor also announced that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, and sheriffs will conduct operations to “interdict human smuggling and human trafficking, drug smuggling and drug trafficking, as well as to seize illegal weapons.”
DeSantis also signed SB 1808, prohibiting “a governmental entity from executing, amending, or renewing a contact with a common carrier if the carrier is willfully providing any service in furtherance of transporting an unauthorized alien into the State of Florida knowing that he or she is an unauthorized alien.” Few exceptions apply.