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Harsh Florida immigration law disrupts lives of immigrants

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2023 | Immigration |

A new Florida law, seen by some as intended to boost Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign, is causing severe disruptions to the state’s large immigrant population. The law, known as S.B. 1718, places many restrictions on immigrants’ rights to travel freely into and within Florida.

The law invalidates out-of-state drivers’ licenses that have been issued without a demonstration by the licensee of a lawful presence in the United States. The law also makes it a crime to operate a motor vehicle in Florida with this type of license.

“Human smuggling”

One of the bill’s not-so-subtle purposes is to restrict transporting individuals who lack legal immigration status. Anyone who transports into Florida an individual who is known to have entered the U.S. unlawfully is now guilty of a felony. The law ostensibly does not affect the right of parents to transport their children to school, to church, or make similar trips.

Effect on legal immigrants

The problem, according to numerous media reports, is that even individuals who have no legal worries, now worry about being stopped because of their race and detained for days or weeks. One woman who lacked any legal immigration status, reported that she found employment with a painting contractor who was himself an unauthorized alien. When S.B. 1718 was signed by Gov. DeSantis, the contractor closed his business and left the state, causing the woman to lose her job.

Other effects

The bill appropriated $12,000,000 for the “Unauthorized Alien Transport Program,” a state-sponsored program that authorizes the transportation of aliens without lawful status to be transported from Florida without their consent to other states. The law also requires employers who employ more than 25 workers to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of newly hired workers.

Critics of the law

According to the most recent survey by the Pew Research Center, at least 825,000 Floridians lack permanent legal status. Pew also estimated that about half of those individuals play key roles in Florida’s economy. The major criticism is that the law inhibits the ability of immigrants to go about their daily activities without fear or anxiety.