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Florida Experts, Advocates, and Affected Community Members React to Latest on State Anti-Immigrant Bill Pushed By Gov. DeSantis

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To access a recording of today’s call, visit HERE

 Washington, DC — On a press call held this morning, Florida experts, advocates, affected community members and faith leaders gathered to discuss the latest on the damaging anti-immigration state legislative proposals backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

 Renata Bozzetto, Deputy Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, stated: “The reality is that Floridians’ lives are shaped by immigration and the proposals of Governor DeSantis are causing incredible harm. We know that what is on the table today is nurturing a precarious state for immigrant families, immigrant businesses, businesses who rely on immigrant workers, many of whom we know are essential workers and kept food on our tables during the pandemic, those who are in the healthcare industry, and those who are serving Floridians who need home care. We know that those bills are targeting individuals who are propelling Florida in everyday life.”

Paul R. Chávez, Senior Supervising Attorney at SPLC Action Fund said: “The sole and exclusive power to regulate immigration policy is granted to the federal government, not the states, according to the United States Constitution (Article VI) and centuries of congressional action and case law. A state effort to create a separate, competing state-run immigration enforcement system impedes the federal government’s ability to do its job and undermines our democracy. As designed, this bill will push hundreds of thousands of people into the shadows. It will create distrust of law enforcement in immigrant communities and make these communities less likely to report crimes, interact with police and seek medical treatment. This is cruelty for cruelty’s sake that will negatively impact public safety and public health and cause great harm to all Floridians.”

Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet, Executive Director, Hope CommUnity Center said, “Hope for 50 years has been providing critical services to our immigrant community in Central Florida. We know firsthand the chilling effects this bill will have in the immigrant and Latino community. We provide social services to indigenous children who came without their parents because they were going to be kidnapped and sold into slavery or used as child soldiers in Central America. I have personally held in my arms a young gay man as he sobbed while telling me about his journey on foot from Venezuela to the United States. I have met a young 14-year-old girl who was gang-raped in her village, sent to the United States to escape death, held for two months in a detention center, to then give birth to a child born out of the most difficult day in her life. These are the people the Florida legislature and Governor DeSantis are further victimizing. Florida has real issues including the rising cost of housing, insurance, and sea level. Immigrants are not the problem; they are the solution.”

Pastor Benjamin Feliciano, of the Rosa de Sarón Church in Fort Myers, said: “Our hope and our prayers are that our legislators would reconsider this bill SB 1718, sponsored by Senator Ingoglia. It would make life hard in so many ways for undocumented immigrants but also neighbors. This bill is more of a political show pony than an example of effective public policy that would keep our community safe and flourishing. This bill would restrict our ability to follow the tenants of our faith through the call to help others. This bill would literally tear at the fabric of our community, much of which has been rebuilt through neighbors, immigrants and US citizens working side by side.”

And Leah, a daughter of undocumented immigrants living in South Florida, offered a personal perspective: “I am a senior in high school, was born in Miami and have been in activism since I was about 8 years old. Today the Governor of Florida once again attacked the immigrant community with laws that separate families. I am living with the constant fear of being separated from my mother. She has been fighting for a TPS resignation for Nicaragua. I have a right to grow and follow my dreams. My parents are not criminals and Governor DeSantis does not have the right to take them away from me.” 


Policy fact sheet from the Florida Immigrant Coalition

 Resource from America’s Voice: Ron DeSantis Imagines a United States Without Immigration