DeSantis’ Dystopia: Florida’s Latest Assault on Immigrant Rights

In true DeSantis fashion, Florida’s governor just doubled down on his anti-immigration stance. Slapping the immigrant community with a law that’s one of the toughest in the nation, Ron DeSantis has proved once again that he’s no friend of those seeking the American Dream. Guadalupe de la Cruz, the director of the Florida chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, was disappointed, yet unsurprised, by this anti-immigrant salvo.

DeSantis, never one to shy away from a political spectacle, has already made headlines for orchestrating theatrical migrant flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. Now, he’s signed the controversial Senate Bill 1718 into law, all under the pretense of safeguarding Florida taxpayers from the “cost of illegal immigration.” This means any private employer with over 25 employees must use the federal E-Verify system to determine the immigration status of new hires, with penalties for non-compliance potentially putting businesses out of operation.

DeSantis’ assault on immigrants doesn’t stop there. Undocumented immigrants are now barred from obtaining identification, local governments can’t fund the issuance of these identification documents, and hospitals accepting Medicaid are required to record immigration data on their admission forms. In a spiteful twist, it’s now a felony to transport undocumented immigrants into Florida, and the governor’s got $12 million earmarked for his very own “Unauthorized Alien Transport Program” to relocate migrants to other states in an act of political rebellion against the Biden administration’s policies.

Here’s where the anti-immigrant fervor takes an economic toll. Florida, with one in five residents being immigrants and a significant chunk of undocumented agricultural workers, stands to lose a considerable workforce if this law goes unchallenged. The Florida Policy Institute has projected that industries heavily reliant on undocumented workers—think construction, agriculture, retail, and hospitality—could lose around 10 percent of their workforce, which would result in a whopping $12.6 billion hit to the state’s GDP.

This law is already causing a wave of anxiety, even before its official commencement on July 1. There’s widespread uncertainty about the safety of going to work or school, prompting lawyers to draft notarized letters for parents and guardians fearing the worst. Communities are in panic, and some members are already planning their exit strategy from Florida.

In response to reports of immigrants fleeing the state, a spokesperson for the governor’s office heartlessly cheered on the exodus, insinuating that the law was “working.” In contrast, numerous civil rights organizations, like the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, are raising alarm bells about the law’s implications. They’ve warned against traveling to Florida, given its hostile stance towards people of color, international travelers, and the LGBTQIA+ community, among others.

The anti-immigrant narrative peddled by DeSantis is all too familiar; Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama have all enacted similar legislation, each with disastrous socio-economic consequences. A report following Alabama’s 2011 law concluded that its anti-immigrant crackdown could shrink the state’s GDP by nearly $10.8 billion annually due to lost earnings, consumer spending, and diminished tax revenue.

As Floridians grapple with DeSantis’ new law, the fear and panic in immigrant communities are palpable. Legal representatives are witnessing the distress firsthand and employers are scrambling to understand the potential ramifications. We’re seeing images of deserted fields and construction sites circulating on social media as migrant workers make their voices heard.

Ultimately, the implications of this law stretch beyond the immediate. As Renata Bozzetto, the deputy director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, points out, this law is a direct assault on trust, community interaction, and democracy itself. Florida’s immigrant community, integral to the state’s economic and cultural fabric, deserves better. This law is a divisive move that risks inflicting deep and lasting harm, and it’s time for us to stand up against it.