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Texas Republicans Should Be Glad Courts Blocked Their Anti-Immigrant Bill. Just Look At the Effects of DeSantis’ Extreme Legislation in Florida

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This week, the Supreme Court temporarily delayed the implementation of Texas’s S.B.4, the extreme “show me your papers” law that empowers every law enforcement officer to question the citizenship of any Texas resident and detain them. While a sound-minded federal judge initially blocked the law, that hold was lifted by the notoriously conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Biden administration appealed, resulting in Monday night’s ruling from Justice Samuel Alito (which also shows SCOTUS can act quickly when it wants to, but that’s a whole different story). 

S.B. 4’s implementation date, which was set for March 5, is now delayed until at least March 13 while the high court considers the law. While Texas Republicans led by Governor Greg Abbott and corrupt Attorney General Ken Paxton want the law in effect as soon as possible, they should be glad the court has blocked it. 

Just look at what’s happened in Florida. 

Moncho, a farmworker who spoke to Civil Eats under a pseudonym, said Florida was home — until GOP lawmakers passed S.B. 1718, largely as part of an effort to boost Governor Ron DeSantis’s since-suspended presidential campaign. While the anti-immigrant bill didn’t drive DeSantis past Iowa, it did drive frightened immigrant workers out of Florida. Moncho and his wife were among them. They left the state to seek dairy farm work in Vermont (yet another industry that depends on the labor of immigrant workers).

“Once the law passed, there were empty houses,” Moncho told Civil Eats. “You went down the street, and it was, ‘For Rent. For Rent. For Rent,’ everywhere.” Civil Eats reported that “as workers have fled, ‘help wanted’ signs have reportedly popped up across the state. Crops have been left to rot in fields. Entire communities emptied out and turned into ‘ghost towns.’” 

It was totally predictable because it’s already happened before. Florida’s immediate neighbors, Georgia and Alabama, learned the hard way that xenophobic legislation is both hateful and costly. Yet, during a town hall last summer, a Florida Republican who helped pass the law expressed shock over immigrant workers fleeing the state. Reporting has since noted that it could take years for the state to recover from its ongoing labor shortage. Major industries that depend on the work of migrant workers – such as agriculture, hospitality, elder care, nursing and construction – were already struggling to fill vacant positions.

“[Florida’s] current legislative session continued the trend,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s Silvana Caldera writes in the Miami Herald. “This year, despite demonstrable benefit to local communities of an ID program, one proposal seeks to make the anti-immigrant provisions harsher by banning local governments from even accepting community IDs, which are available to everyone, not just immigrants.” 

“Florida has long been celebrated for its diverse communities, where cultures and people from all backgrounds have flourished,” Caldera continued. Nearly 40% of the state’s agricultural workers are undocumented, and they feed the state, including the nativist lawmakers that attack them. “The state has benefited — not suffered — from the contributions of newcomers welcomed into our communities.” 

Meanwhile, thanks to the relentless work of Latino and indigenous community organizers, Arizona has come a long way since passing 2010’s notorious S.B. 1070. This week, Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs vetoed an anti-immigrant bill that pushed the deadly white nationalist “invasion” conspiracy theory. Arizona Daily Star notes that S.B. 1231 was modeled after Texas’s anti-immigrant law. 

In rejecting the bill, Hobbs, who during the 2022 gubernatorial race employed a “balanced” immigration approach and called out the political stunts of her extremist opponent Kari Lake, said the legislation “does not secure our border, will be harmful for communities and businesses in our state, and burdensome for law enforcement personnel and the state judicial system.” 

“Legislative Democrats knew Republicans had the votes for the plan,” Arizona Daily Star reported. “They also knew Hobbs would veto it. But that did not stop them from making floor speeches, saying it would lead to racial profiling. None of the Republicans supporting the bill explained how a police officer would know whether an individual entered the country somewhere other than a port of entry.”

That’s because they wouldn’t know. Much like S.B. 4, residents, regardless of immigration status, would be at risk due to their skin color and the accent they speak. For some community members, the risk has simply been too great, and they’ve been forced to uproot their lives and seek a new home in another state. When this pattern has played out in state after state after state over the years, Republicans can no longer pretend to be shocked when their nativism backfires.