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“Openly Hostile,” “State of Emergency Every Single Day”: More National and State Groups Issue Advisories Warning Against Travel To Florida

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NAACP Warns Florida “Is Openly Hostile Toward African Americans”; HRC Says DeSantis Is Weaving “Bigotry, Hate, and Discrimination Into State Law”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ cruel laws targeting marginalized communities continue to receive blowback from national and state organizations. Civil rights groups NAACP and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have become the latest to warn against travel to Florida due to policies attacking Black Americans, immigrants, and LGBTQ people.

“Please be advised that Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP warned in its May 20 advisory. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the State of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of and the challenges faced by African Americans and other minorities.”

The organization’s Florida State Conference had in March voted unanimously in favor of asking its national board of directors to issue a travel advisory, following DeSantis’ politically-motivated attacks on Black people and American history. Angling to pit himself to the right of 2024 Republican candidates for president, DeSantis moved to ban AP curriculum on the topic, offensively claiming it lacked educational value. We’ve said it before, and we’re going to say it again: Black history is American history.

“Once again, hate-inspired state leaders have chosen to put politics over people,” said NAACP Board of Directors Chair Leon Russell. “Governor Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida have engaged in a blatant war against principles of diversity and inclusion and rejected our shared identities to appeal to a dangerous, extremist minority.”

HRC, a leading LGBTQ civil rights organization, announced this week that it had joined LGBTQ group Florida Equality in issuing an updated advisory warning against travel to the state. Florida Equality had issued an initial advisory last month warning that the discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” bill posed a direct risk to “the health, safety, and freedom” of LGBTQ people considering short or long-term travel to the state. “In all, six anti-LGBTQ bills were passed and nearly all have been signed by Governor DeSantis,” HRC said as part of the updated advisory. 

Further efforts by state Republicans “escalate book banning, threaten child custody agreements, and cut off care for a vast majority of transgender people in the state. The ‘Physicians Only’ provision of SB 254 prohibits nurse practitioners and physician assistants from providing gender-affirming care to transgender adults, disrupting the health care of an estimated 80%+ of transgender patients at clinics statewide.”

“Because of Ron DeSantis and his frenzied appeal to extremists, LGBTQ+ people in Florida are finding themselves in a state of emergency every single day,” said HRC President Kelley Robinson. “Since the day he took office, Governor DeSantis has weaponized his position to weave bigotry, hate, and discrimination into public law for his own political gain.”

The Florida Immigrant Coalition, a statewide immigrant rights coalition of 65 member organizations and over 100 allies, had also previously warned that discriminatory policies make travel to the state just too unsafe for immigrant communities. Angelica Salas, Executive Director of California-based CHIRLA, said the organization joined this effort because of Florida lawmakers’ “cruel and obsessive persecution of immigrants.” Salas said that “[i]n his drive to appeal to the far-right wing of his party, Mr. DeSantis is making Florida an unwelcoming place for any American and we should all be very concerned.”

The coalition’s website bluntly stated the situation: “Travel to all areas of Florida should be done with extreme caution as it can be unsafe for people of color, individuals who speak with an accent, and international travelers.” Since then, DeSantis has signed S.B. 1718 into place. The law includes a provision punishing Floridians with prison time for transporting an undocumented person into the state, even if it’s a loved one. 

LULAC, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, echoed this fear in its advisory earlier this month, calling S.B. 1718 “cruel” and cautioning that families could be prosecuted and treated “like criminals” for taking an “Abuelita or Tia” to a theme park. 

DeSantis’ discriminatory and cruel policies pose a direct threat to anyone non-white and could increase the likelihood of Florida families becoming unfairly entangled in the immigration system. Florida is home to the largest Haitian population in the nation, particularly in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. “Even with the growth of the Black immigrant population in the United States, they continue to face unique immigration challenges rooted in anti-Black discrimination,” Human Rights First said. “While Black immigrants consisted of less than six percent of the undocumented immigrant population in the United States between 2003 and 2015, they represent over ten percent of immigrants in removal proceedings at that time.”

LGBTQ migrants, meanwhile, are already “particularly vulnerable to discrimination, persecution, and violence throughout the migratory process,” the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law said in its report. “The majority of LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in the U.S. came from the Northern Triangle region of Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador),” all regions where being returned could mean life or death. 

DeSantis’ policies only continue to heighten the danger these vulnerable communities already face.