Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a sweeping anti-immigration bill on May 10, which is among the strictest in the country and reflects his hardline stance on immigration and asylum-seekers. The bill, known as SB 1718, will go into effect on July 1 and will set strict policies for undocumented immigrants and employers in the state.
The bill prohibits counties and municipalities from providing funds to any person, entity, or organization to issue identification documents to an individual who does not provide proof of lawful presence in the United States. It also specifies that certain driver licenses and permits issued by other states exclusively to unauthorized immigrants are not valid in Florida. Additionally, it requires certain hospitals to collect patient immigration status data information on admission or registration forms.
The bill also requires private employers with 25 or more employees that are making new hires to use E-Verify, the federal online database that employers use to confirm whether someone is eligible to work in the U.S. Furthermore, it allocates $12 million to expand DeSantis’ migrant relocation program, which flies migrants from Texas to other states or countries.
The bill has faced criticism from business groups, immigrant advocates, and some Republican lawmakers who represent agricultural districts. They argue that the bill will harm the state’s economy, create labor shortages, and violate the rights of undocumented workers and residents who contribute to the state.
“These are industries where immigrants make up the vast majority of workers, and not allowing businesses to be able to utilize these workers will have a really big impact on our economy and their ability to create jobs,” said Samuel Vilchez Santiago, Florida director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, an advocacy group for immigration reform that benefits businesses.
Rick Roth, a Republican state representative who voted for the bill but later expressed regret about its impact on farm laborers, said that the bill had caused “unintended consequences” and “the harm is done” to the undocumented migrant workers already in the state. He said that the bill was only meant to deal with the new arrivals after July 1, but it was not well communicated and led to a mass exodus of farm laborers to neighboring Georgia.
Roth was challenged by Yareliz Mendez, federal campaign lead for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, an organization that works to defend the rights of immigrants in the state. She said that Roth’s comments were contradictory and hypocritical, given his voting record. “This bill is not about immigration. This bill is about hate,” she said.
The bill has also sparked protests and calls for boycotts from immigrant workers and allies. Some Latino truck drivers have vowed to stop deliveries across the state and some businesses have pledged to close their doors for a day on June 1 to show their opposition to the bill.
“This is not just an attack on immigrants. This is an attack on all Floridians,” Mendez said.
– Florida Republican who voted for anti-immigrant bill admits it’s doing harm, Newsweek, 6/20/23
– Senate Bill 1718 (2023) – The Florida Senate, The Florida Senate, 5/9/23
– What is Florida SB 1718 and how will it affect immigrants, businesses, economy : NPR, NPR, 5/30/23
– Florida Senate 2023 By, The Florida Senate, 4/26/23