Labor denounces Florida’s new anti-immigrant law for ‘instilling fear and hate’
A woman carries a sign that reads 'We are working people, not criminals; we are the ones who harvest the crops; Immokalee farm workers strong' as hundreds gather to protest peacefully against Florida Senate Bill 1718, which imposes restrictions on undocumented immigrants, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Immokalee, Fla., an area known for its tomato-growing. | Rebecca Blackwell / AP

WASHINGTON (PAI)—A new and wide-ranging Florida anti-immigrant law, which not only criminalizes migrants but makes those who help them into state-level racketeers, “instills fear and hate,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler says. And workers and their allies will do all they can to oppose it, she adds.

The measure, heavily pushed by right-wing Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., not only makes migrants into pariahs—or worse—but also mandates employers use a faulty federal system, E-Verify, to indicate whether job applicants are legal residents or not. And hospitals must report when they treat undocumented people, and those who try to help the undocumented can be classified as racketeers, the law, SB1718, says.

The law reflects DeSantis’s hate of migrants from Latin America, but it’s also part of his emphasis on culture war “social issues” to fortify his appeal to the white supremacist and religious fundamentalist wing of the GOP voting base as the governor chases Donald Trump for next year’s Republican presidential nomination.

“As the anti-worker, anti-immigrant provisions of SB1718 go into effect, we stand in solidarity with all working families in Florida and beyond whose lives and livelihoods will be threatened by this legislation,” Shuler said.

“This bill is designed to instill fear and hate in our communities. As we already are seeing, it also will have a crippling effect on the workforce and economy of the Sunshine State. In pursuing this agenda, Gov. Ron DeSantis is targeting, rather than supporting, hardworking people who help to build, serve, and feed the state he governs and our nation.

“In the face of such blatant attempts to divide us, working people will stand united. Unions renew our unwavering commitment to fight for policies that ensure all working people—regardless of where we were born—are able to live and work safely and with dignity.”

A Florida State Senate summary of the law says it “prohibits counties and municipalities, respectively, from providing funds to any person, entity, or organization to issue identification documents to an individual who does not provide proof of lawful presence in the United States.

It adds Florida will not honor “certain driver licenses and permits issued by other states exclusively to unauthorized immigrants,” will require hospitals to collect immigration status when patients—including Medicaid recipients—register or are admitted, and mandate that employers repay any state funds if the “employer knowingly employed an unauthorized alien without verifying the employment eligibility of such person,” etc. But that “etc.” covers a lot of ground, including:

  • Creates a third-degree felony, for human smuggling, of anyone who “knowingly and willfully transports into this state an individual whom the person knows or reasonably should know has entered the United States in violation of the law.” The aider of an undocumented migrant can also be prosecuted for breaking Florida’s racketeering law.
  • Urges Florida law enforcement agencies to send information to federal counterparts about undocumented people the Floridians arrest—and makes the Florida Department of Law Enforcement “cooperate” with federal agents.
  • Forces firms, starting next July 1, to use the E-verify system to check workers’ legal status in the U.S. and fines them $5,000 daily when they employ undocumented people. Past non-partisan reports show E-verify is riddled with errors. The state can also lift businesses’ licenses to operate.
  • Bans cities and counties from issuing ID cards to undocumented people.

Appropriates $12 million for DeSantis’s program of flying undocumented people out of the state. DeSantis has been flying them to “sanctuary cities” such as New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., and abandoning them there—while leaving the cities to pick up the tab for feeding, housing,  and caring for them, without federal compensation, unlike Florida.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.