Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings and David Torres from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish:
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be any relationship at all between the anti-immigrant law SB 1718, which takes effect in Florida on July 1, and the tenth anniversary of Senate passage of S. 744, the last attempt to advance immigration reform, which later perished in the Republican-majority House of Representatives that refused to consider it. The bill was approved on June 27, 2013 in a bipartisan vote of 68-32.
But if there is a connection, it’s that due to the absence of uniform immigration reform at the federal level, the states—particularly those governed by Republicans more interested in politicking than presenting sensible solutions to migration problems—opt to advance proposals like the one promulgated in Florida by Governor Ron DeSantis. The Republican is aspiring to the presidential nomination by promising that, after being nominated and then elected, he will take what he’s done in Florida to the national level.
The attempt at immigration reform ten years ago, like many others, to try to ensure the United States doesn’t turn its back on its very immigrant essence, would have been the perfect platform to make this nation a humanitarian power, sensible in both social and economic terms. But the most recalcitrant wing of anti-immigrants and the xenophobes canceled this possibility, and led to even more radical positions over these many years, formed by political cadres that focus the vileness of their proposals, filled with racism, on the most vulnerable sectors.
Essentially, SB 1718—even before its implementation—has already generated a humanitarian crisis among undocumented people in Florida who, in light of this fear, have begun to abandon homes, jobs, and belongings to move to another state. This in and of itself has economic repercussions when these undocumented immigrants decide to leave their jobs in diverse industries that are crucial to the state, such as agriculture and construction, as well as tourism and hospitality.
This shot in the foot that the Governor and his supporters in Florida and other parts of the country have given themselves has led local and state business owners to sound alarm bells, since their businesses have been directly affected by the absence of the undocumented workforce that they had hired. This, in turn, has led to the discovery that undocumented immigrant workers in this state, as in the rest of the nation, are a key factor in economic-financial development, and those who hired them know it. Their hypocrisy is costing them dearly, now that migrants have decided to abandon a state that doesn’t want them there.
The situation becomes even more complicated when figures like DeSantis decide to employ and normalize the rhetoric of white supremacists in immigration discourse—such as references to “open borders,” and needing to “stop the invasion” of undocumented people. Using these phrases has already had the effect of influencing unbalanced people, who decide to take action to stop this supposed “invasion.” The consequences have been deadly.
In 2019 in El Paso, Texas, the white racist Patrick Crusius fired an AK-47 rifle into a Walmart store with a largely Hispanic clientele, killing twenty people and injuring twenty-six others. The place chosen by this young, twenty-one year old man was no accident because, according to what he wrote in a manifesto, “This attack is in response to the Hispanic invasion in Texas.” In recent years similar examples of racial hatred, motivated by white nationalist conspiracy theories and normalized by Republican figures like ex-President Donald Trump and the most-anti-immigrant aspirants to his throne, such as DeSantis, have abounded.
In 2013 we covered the debate and then passage of S. 744 in the U.S. Senate. The measure did not see the light of day in the House of Representatives, which was majority-Republican at the time and presided over by the congressman from Ohio, John Boehner, who is now retired. He didn’t bring this proposal up for consideration, and also did not present an alternative. From that day to today, the Republican Party has enjoyed the political game of accusing Democrats of not controlling the border, while simultaneously blocking measures that address this and other matters in the immigration system, including asylum processing and legalizing the millions of undocumented people among us.
What wasn’t known in 2013 is that two years later, Trump would seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2015 and win it and the presidency in 2016 with a xenophobic, racist, and anti-immigrant message, leading the Republican Party in a downward spiral that seems to have no end, and where employing white supremacist rhetoric is an electoral strategy.
His pupil, DeSantis, is now copying the same playbook as Trump, and on Monday he presented his immigration platform in Eagle Pass, Texas. And while they hate each other now, they are competing for the same thing. They are cut from the same anti-immigrant cloth. Birds of a feather flock together.
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.