Last Thursday [June 1, 2023], protestors across Florida held a walkout against a recently passed immigration law under the banner of “Un Día Sin Inmigrantes,” or “a day without immigrants.” According to NBC News, protests were also scheduled in several other states, including California, Georgia, Minnesota, Illinois, Oregon, Texas, South Carolina and Colorado.
Signed into law last month, FL Senate Bill 1718 is set to go into effect on July 1st, and is one of the strongest state immigration laws to-date. However, for the very same reason, it has been targeted by protestors and advocates as an attack on immigrants (whether illegal or not). Among the commonsense provisions in the bill, it prohibits issuing identification documents to illegal aliens and requires employers with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify system. The bill would fine employers $1,000 per day for failing to use E-Verify and makes it a felony to use a fake ID to gain employment.
Some businesses were closed in Florida in support of the protest. Outside one restaurant closed in Fort Lauderdale, protestors gathered to chant and wave flags from their home countries. The restaurant’s owner, Isis Cordova, said, “I managed to get legal status in this country, and I said one day when I have documents I’m going to raise my voice. I’m also going to speak up for those people who don’t have a voice.”
Opponents of the law claim that it will result in an exodus of illegal aliens from Florida, damaging the state’s economy and leaving critical business sectors without workers. Samuel Vilchez Santiago, Florida director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, has said that the effects will be particularly acute in the agriculture, construction and hospitality industries. “These are industries where immigrants make up the vast majority of workers, and not allowing businesses to be able to utilize these workers will have a really big impact on our economy and their ability to create jobs,” Vilchez said.
However, supporters say that the concerns are overblown, and that the legislation will help prevent employers from driving down wages in those industries by employing cheaper illegal workers. In a statement, CEO and President of the Florida Trucking Association, Alix Miller, said that although he was aware of the arguments, he was not aware of any issues due to the law.
In signing the bill, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said: “In Florida, we will not stand idly by while the federal government abandons its lawful duties to protect our country. The legislation I signed today gives Florida the most ambitious anti-illegal immigration laws in the country, fighting back against reckless federal government policies and ensuring the Florida taxpayers are not footing the bill for illegal immigration.”
That statement is consistent with FAIR’s latest cost study, showing that illegal immigration costs American taxpayers more than $150 billion annually. In Florida alone, it is estimated that there are 1,185,000 illegal aliens, for a 2023 cost to Florida taxpayers of $8.04 billion, or $986 per household.
After the law was passed, at least one major advocacy group, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), issued a travel advisory for Florida. Domingo Garcia, the president of LULAC, claimed that the law creates “a clear and present danger to Latinos in Florida and to Americans in general.”
With the protests receiving extensive coverage in Spanish language media and advocacy groups continuing to voice their opposition, the controversy shows no signs of dying down. In the weeks and months ahead, FAIR will continue to track the law’s implementation and work to support policies that protect American taxpayers and fight back against the Biden Administration’s abuse of our immigration laws.
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