Washington, DC – As he positions himself for a 2024 Republican primary run, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is defining himself by extremist stances and divisive grievance politics, including on immigration.
Yet, as seen in the new collection of anti-immigrant state policies he is backing, the DeSantis desire to “own the libs” and burnish his nativist credentials with the GOP base is leading to wild overreach, dramatically at odds with the economic interests and needs of Florida and certainly mismatched to the general election audience he’d need to win over if he really wants to be president.
As Prem Thakker writes in The New Republic, “Ron DeSantis Wants to Make It a Felony to Have an Undocumented Person in Your Home or Car” noting, “A new Florida bill criminalizes not just undocumented Floridians but anyone who associates with them.” Thakker writes:
“Around 772,000 Florida workers, students, and community members are undocumented. And Governor Ron DeSantis wants to make it a felony for anyone to have them in their home or even give them a ride.
Senate Bill 1718, part of Desantis’s broad repressive legislative agenda this year, targets not just undocumented people but also anyone associated with them. The bill, which is likely to pass the Republican-controlled state legislature, criminalizes anyone who transports an undocumented person “into or within this state.” In other words, anyone—co-worker, friend, neighbor, classmate—giving a simple ride to someone they know or care about who is undocumented would be guilty of a third-degree felony.
The bill also criminalizes anyone who ‘conceals, harbors, or shields’ (or ‘attempts’ to do so) an undocumented person in ‘any place within this state.’ Nearly 4 percent of Floridians are undocumented. The bill text, reading like an edict issued in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series, foments fear about these hundreds of thousands of people. It isn’t hard to imagine law enforcement agencies conflating a house party or simple afternoon cup of tea with a secret migrant-harboring operation.”
According to research released last year by FWD.us, 722,000 Florida U.S. citizens live with at least one undocumented person in their household; 343,000 U.S. citizen children in Florida live with a person who is undocumented; 285,000 U.S. citizen children in Florida have an undocumented parent; and 132,000 U.S. citizens in Florida have an undocumented spouse.
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:
“Ron DeSantis is pushing ‘show me your papers’ for the Sunshine State and cementing a brand of cruel and self-defeating nativism that is bad for Florida and toxic outside the MAGA base. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens in Florida could stand to be charged with felonies if this becomes law because they live with an undocumented family member, drive a car or associate with friends and family. The so-called ‘party of small government’ has embarked on a total Big Brother move in Florida to take away personal liberties and basic freedoms of association and movement.
With labor shortages in home health care, agriculture, hurricane recovery, hospitality and other sectors, the Republican effort to send a message that immigrants are not welcome in Florida is self-defeating. That essential Florida industries rely on immigrant labor is obvious, but beside the point to the Governor’s calculations. Gov. DeSantis knows his state’s leading businesses, particularly agriculture and the post-hurricane rebuilding effort, rely heavily on the labor of immigrants, many of whom are undocumented. His Republican allies in Tallahassee know this, too. In the Governor’s all-consuming quest to toss red meat to the MAGA base, outflank Trump on the immigration issue and stoke praise from right wing media for ‘owning the libs,’ he’s setting up his state for a potentially devastating impact on day-to-day life for Floridians.
If criminalizing a soccer mom for driving her daughter’s undocumented teammate home from practice is good politics, then Ron DeSantis is your perfect candidate for 2024. ”