tags: Press Releases

Economic Fears and Workers Fleeing the State: Ron DeSantis Should Answer Questions About His Real Immigration Legacy in Florida?

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Washington, DC – Next Monday, Ron DeSantis is again scheduled to hold a border related press event, this time in Eagle Pass, TX. While we expect he will tout his hardline immigration bona fides as part of his attempted appeal to the MAGA base, we don’t expect him to admit the true costs and consequences already apparent in Florida as a result of his signature immigration bill. 

Yet even before the Florida immigration law goes fully into effect (on July 1), evidence is mounting about the costs and consequences to the state, as state and national  media coverage in both English and Spanish highlight.

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“When Ron DeSantis says he will do for America what he has done in Florida, is that a promise or a threat? When he goes to Texas and promises to do for that state and the entire nation what he’s already done to Florida, all of us should be very concerned. The signature Ron DeSantis immigration storyline isn’t his collection of dehumanizing political stunts that have shipped migrants and asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard and California and it’s not whatever ugly border and anti-immigrant fearmongering he will again engage in at the border in Eagle Pass, Texas next week. Instead, it’s the already visible set of economic and community harms that he has inflicted on Florida. Entire families and neighborhoods are departing the state and works sites and industries are being paralyzed due to the ugly grab bag of anti-immigrant state policies his GOP allies passed in service of the DeSantis presidential primary push.

Political reporters and observers should press DeSantis for answers related to his  real record and immigration legacy in Florida – turning his back on the state’s proud tradition as an immigrant-friendly state and the damage he is doing to the state’s economy – and the hospitality, construction and agriculture industries in particular – in the process.”

The Tallahassee Democrat details some of the damage of the signature DeSantis bill in a story titled, “New immigration law sparks fear and worker exodus from Florida (excerpted below):

“On a June afternoon in Quincy, Florida, hundreds of gloved hands move 3,000 pounds of green tomatoes by-the-minute from plastic bins to conveyor belts to boxes to be sold across the country.

In his packing plant, Graves Williams, a lifelong Republican, proudly explained the skill, labor and manpower needed to provide tomatoes across North America, a feat that he says wouldn’t be possible without immigrant laborers.

“We all love them to death,” said Williams, whose family has been farming tomatoes for decades. “We couldn’t run a business without them.”

But with one of the strictest laws in the nation taking effect July 1 aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, Florida is being rocked by an exodus of migrant workers. The departures are sparking fear that a labor shortage will leave crops unpicked, tourist hotels short of staff and construction sites idle.

…Florida employers in construction, restaurants, landscaping and many other service sectors already are struggling to fill jobs during what has been a post-pandemic, sustained stretch of low unemployment. The new immigration limits will compound that, many say.” 

Newsweek highlights the recent comments of GOP State Representative Rick Roth, admitting “unintended consequences” of the immigration law he voted for: “Florida Republican Who Voted for Anti-Immigrant Bill Admits It’s Doing Harm.

A Republican state representative who voted in favor of a new law setting strict anti-immigration policies has admitted that “the harm is done” when it came to the impact of the new regulation.

Speaking on CBS News Miami on Monday, Rick Roth said the law would have “unintended consequences,” referencing its potential impact on undocumented migrant workers already in the state. The representative for the state’s 85th House district was among 83 legislators to approve Senate Bill 1718 in Florida on May 2.

After being challenged about his comments given his voting record by Yareliz Mendez, federal campaign lead for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Roth responded on CBS News Miami that the law was only intended to combat the undocumented migrants attempting to make it into the state after July 1 but that this had not been well-signposted.

He said there should have been information given out to make clear that the law was only ‘for people applying for a new job,’ and that the ‘unintended consequences’ included an apparent exodus of undocumented migrant workers from Florida.”

Telemundo captures the feeling in immigrant families and neighborhoods of the legislation’s impact. Below, we translate key excerpts: ‘The undocumented in Florida “forced” into exile by DeSantis’ immigration law: “We have had to leave like rats,”:

“When David Guerra and his large family fled Florida in May, they left behind beds, mattresses, furniture, the tools with which they made a living and the children’s toys

…Of the ten people who lived in the Guerra house, only three children are US citizens: the rest do not have documents. They left Tampa on May 30 along the same street where, a month earlier, they had seen the belongings of other undocumented residents like them, who did not manage to take everything with them when they fled to Kentucky.”

‘I have felt quite sad that they (sic) have had to leave, as we said, like rats because they don’t want us. And it’s hard to be like that in that situation.’”

Meanwhile, Mother Jones reports on cruelty inherent to the legislation – immigrants being afraid to access needed medical treatments and health care due to fears.

“The patients at Juana Duran’s maternity clinic are terrified. Many are undocumented, and, according to Duran—an administrative staffer at the Florida facility—they are worried that a new law championed by Gov. Ron Desantis could put them at risk of deportation when they give birth. “I know my people,” says Duran. “They are scared.”

…“We know that a lot of people are already very afraid,” says Alison Yager, executive director of Florida Health Justice Project.

“People who had been in ongoing care and treatments”—or who have chronic conditions or “were seeing providers regularly—have stopped,” she adds. “A significant number have stopped coming to their appointments.”

“The fear is the biggest factor,” says Jennie Joseph, a midwife and founder of the Florida maternity clinic where Duran works. “From the patient’s perspective,” the message people hear is that “they will be in jeopardy if they present in the hospital.”

For some of the law’s supporters, fear is precisely the point.”