One of the most controversial migration laws in the United States came into effect a month ago after Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 1718, a measure aimed at halting the influx of irregular immigrants.
According to the declaration, the corporation will incur daily penalties of $1,000 if authorities apprehend workers without documentation. The legislation mandates that companies with over 25 employees must utilize the E-Verify system to verify that employees possess a lawful immigration status and are eligible to work.
Those who transport adults without documentation may face penalties of 10 years in prison, while the imprisonment term increases to 15 years if minors are involved. Additionally, legal residents are also worried about the law’s provision for punishing those who transport undocumented individuals to Florida through the criminal system.
Many organizations consider these laws to be very difficult to apply because they did not expect such a significant impact, like the fear that it caused among the undocumented community in Florida, which is still in effect 31 days later.
According to Andrés Villa, a Mexican advocate associated with the organization WeCount and residing and working in Homestead, a city in southern Florida with a significant number of undocumented residents, there are claims that “The law is asleep,” however, the actual situation may be different.
“Provoking fear” with the aim of, undocumented people predominated in many places where many “incidents” have been caused by the law that Villa thinks.
The man says in statements to Voice of America: “With this famous law, people move cautiously and fearfully because they do not know at what time the enemy will attack them here in Homestead.”
A law hard to enforce
Some legislators in Florida who have admitted that this law is very difficult to enforce are seeking to put a stop to migration from the migrant community, which causes fear among them, but the objective behind it is to avoid causing paperwork. So, they gave the green light to a legislative project to apply it.
State representative Rick Roth said during an event with pastors from South Florida that “this bill is supposed to scare 100%”. He also noted that “farmers were very angry” due to the loss of workforce as many undocumented individuals left Florida out of fear of the consequences of this law.
An exodus of migrants to other parts of the country was taking place, as many pro-immigrant activists had warned in recent weeks. Roth, who is also a farmer, commented, “It is urgent that they speak to their people to convince them that they have resources.” They have started to move to Georgia and other states.
According to the Institute of Migration Policies, approximately 455,000 unauthorized immigrants are employed in Florida. Out of these individuals, 24% are engaged in construction work, 17% are involved in administrative or domestic duties, 15% are employed in the food services sector, 9% work in retail establishments, and 8% are employed in various other service industries.
The governor Ron DeSantis, who is now a presidential candidate, has signed a series of laws, including the free carry of concealed weapons, the prohibition of discussing gender and sexuality identity in schools, the limitation of abortion rights, and the law on irregular migration. The upcoming presidential elections in 2024 may become a prominent topic on the political agenda, and the issue of migration remains crucial, as many migrants have realized.
“There is still fear, but I believe that organized and united, we can confront these types of things,” Virginia explained.
Claudia Navarro, the co-director of WeCount, celebrated the modification of the law in Congress, which penalized other things, among them the cohabitation of an undocumented person in the same household.
Navarro pointed out, arguing that the Florida government does not have jurisdiction over immigration matters as that solely falls under the federal government, “There were several amendments that diluted the law, but it still has a significant impact on the community.”
He maintained that the law would come into effect before the dissemination of the misinformation that was part of the local police departments not conducting raids to intercept undocumented immigrants, who have already stated that they do not have as much control. Nor does he have any.
It is also unknown how many people may have left the state out of fear of the controversial legislation. The Florida government has not provided any information regarding arrests or penalties following the implementation of this law.
Lawsuits under the law
The same day the law was announced in the United States, several groups that fight for the rights of immigrants, who are already working to file a lawsuit, announced that this legislation blocks their efforts.
According to a press release sent to VOA, it is alleged that the discriminatory law against immigrants poses a threat to the rights and well-being of every individual in the state.
The “Southern Poverty Law Center” and the “American Immigration Council” will file a lawsuit against Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, on behalf of the Florida Agricultural Workers Association and several individuals, alleging that the state’s law not only violates the fundamental rights of immigrants, but also undermines their economic contributions and cultural richness. The lawsuit focuses on the immigrants’ rights to environmental, health, labor, economic, political, and social justice, arguing that the state’s justification for violating these rights is unfounded.
The governor defends the measure.
Due to the pandemic, the protective measure was suspended, a requirement that compels authorities to adhere to the regulations regarding asylum application processes, the reinstatement of Title 8, and the end of Title 42, following the adverse effects of the border policy of United States President, Joe Biden, asserts the governor of Florida, who also states that this measure serves to provide a response.
He recently said after signing the SB 1718 law and arguing that “no one has the right to immigrate to this country, no foreigner”, “In Florida, we recognize this from day one and have truly taken action since (Joe Biden) took office to combat the negative effects of his border policy”.
Alert from the White House
“DeSantis is not trying to solve the problem, he is actually creating an issue,” said White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre in an exchange with reporters in January. Officials from Joe Biden’s government have criticized Governor DeSantis and others for their immigration policies and viewpoints.
Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has upheld the accomplishments of the humanitarian parole program for Haitians, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans in Miami. This program is currently being challenged in a lawsuit brought forth by twenty states, including Florida.
Mayorkas stated in a press conference in January from Little Haiti, a neighborhood in Miami with a large population of nationals from that country, “This way individuals do not have to risk their lives in the hands of those who only seek to exploit them for profit. This is the framework that we have established and will continue to develop, so that our principle of humanitarian assistance can be safely and systematically accessible.”