tags: , , , Blog

Florida Businesses Shut Down in Solidarity With Florida Workers Protesting DeSantis’ Anti-Immigrant Law

Share This:

As Florida Governor Ron DeSantis traipses around the country touting his plan to make the rest of America more like Florida, there’s trouble brewing back home. Backlash over the anti-immigrant law signed by DeSantis has continued on, with thousands across six cities taking part in a “Un Día Sin Inmigrantes,” or “A day without immigrants,” action on Thursday.

Among those marching in Tampa was construction worker Alfonso Bautista, who told Tampa Bay Times that he’s been closely following the legislation. Even though S.B. 1718 won’t be implemented until July 1, one draconian provision imposing penalties on local businesses has already forced immigrant workers who make up the backbone of construction and agricultural industries to have to flee their jobs. Immigrant workers have also been critical in rebuilding efforts following natural disasters. Hurricane season, by the way, began this week.

Bautista “came to the rally to say Florida needs to support their people,” Tampa Bay Times reported. “Just think for a minute: Who’s the person working in the fields, fixing your roofs, or taking care of your office and home?” he exclaimed. “This is Florida, and it’s our home too.” 

Thomas Kennedy, a leading organizer in the state, said that he received messages saying that hundreds were striking from their jobs. “Over 6,000 people showed up in Immokalee to protest DeSantis’ anti-immigrant law and thousands more attended rallies across Florida,” he tweeted. “More events are being planned for the next few weeks.”

Many businesses also closed in solidarity with workers. “I’m trying to support all of the immigrant people,” Victor Prado, general manager of West Palm Beach’s El Mariachi restaurant, told Tallahassee Democrat. “They come to this country to get a better life. We left everyone in our country to come to this beautiful country to live better.” 

William De La Cruz, who runs the Eagle Nursery in Homestead, told NBC News that he also closed his business in solidarity with workers. “Who’s to blame? Only the governor, because he stirred a hornet’s nest he shouldn’t have gotten involved with,” he said in the report. “[DeSantis] also eats from the produce that immigrants pick.” Fact check: true. “There are about 500,000 farm workers in Florida, and I suspect that about 300,000 of them are undocumented,” Farmworkers Association of Florida Executive Director Neza Xiuhtecutli told WFLA in May. Like one rally sign read, immigrants “feed the country.” 

And this is true for anti-immigrant lawmakers all over the country, including Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who vowed to racist outlet Breitbart that he wouldn’t take up any legislation creating a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants. “The reality is that 70%, if not 80%, of farmworkers in the United States today and within his district do not have documents,” former United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez told VOXXI in 2014. 

In the Homestead-Florida City area, Miami Herald reporter Omar Rodríguez Ortiz tweeted that he personally encountered at least 15 businesses that closed in solidarity with workers. One sign read that the business was shutting down to “support our Hispanic community.”

Rodríguez Ortiz also captured video of demonstrators marching around downtown Homestead. He tweeted that there were “so many that it’s impossible to catch the beginning and end of the march unless you are in a helicopter or maybe a tall building.” He wrote that he heard chants of “the people, united, will never be defeated” and “yes, we can.”

The protests on Thursday followed another massive rally organized by We Count! last weekend. “Thousands of people — many of whom work in agriculture, construction, landscaping & domestic work—protested in Homestead Saturday evening against Florida’s new immigration law, SB 1718,” tweeted WLRN reporter Verónica Soledad Zaragovia. But despite its dire implications for Florida’s communities and economy, S.B. 1718 was passed by Republican lawmakers as part of DeSantis’ 2024 presidential aspirations.

“We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere,” workers chanted on Saturday. “There is no Florida without us.” 

We’ve previously noted the headlines warning of empty fields and unfinished buildings, a drumbeat that continued on during this past week. “Not yet in effect, but Florida’s new immigration law already being felt,” CBS News Miami reported on Monday. Pedro Marcos told the outlet that he’s worked in construction for several years now, but recently switched over to nursery work because “[a]ll the construction work stopped, at least where I worked in Miami.”

“It was about 15 days ago,” he said. “I stopped working on construction, after Governor (Ron) DeSantis signed the Immigration Bill. The people who would hire us got scared and — allegedly — told us not to come back.” Marcos told CBS News Miami he’s still working because he has a family to support. “… I have to work on whatever is necessary… landscaping, nurseries, painting.”  

S.B. 1718, the harshest anti-immigrant law passed by any state legislature in more than a decade, also includes a provision criminalizing Floridians for transporting an undocumented person into the state, even if it’s a family member. Organizations including civil rights groups NAACP, Human Rights Campaign, and LULAC have previously issued advisories warning Black Americans, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and other vulnerable populations against travel to the state.

“DeSantis has done everything in his power, and beyond his power, to make living in Florida less of a dream and more of a nightmare,” Jonel Edwards, Executive Director Dream Defenders, said during a recent press call. “Now we know who he is. He is no longer a nameless congressperson, but a power hungry pseudo fascist who says the quiet part out loud,” Edwards continued. “He is sacrificing our safety, our freedom, our economy all for a presidential bid.”

This week, The Miami Herald and The Orlando Sentinel reported that thousands of Floridians who had their homes destroyed by Hurricane Ian back in 2017 still haven’t had repairs completed under a state-run program. Hurricane season started this week, and as The Washington Post noted “Of particular concern are abnormally warm Atlantic waters that can fuel rapidly intensifying storms.”

Good luck with that Florida. Your Governor has done his part. He’s ready to move on to take his slash-and-burn divisive politics to the rest of the country.