Florida Republicans who voted in favor of the impending anti-immigration law are now facing the distressing consequences of their decision. In an attempt to salvage the situation, they are desperately highlighting the supposed "loopholes" in the legislation.
Representative Rick Roth, a third-generation farmer and one of the proponents of the law, reluctantly acknowledged that State Senate Bill 1718, set to take effect on July 1, was intended to intimidate migrants. However, he conceded that he and his colleagues had not anticipated the detrimental impact it would have on the well-established immigrant communities in the state.
Roth, along with a small group of fellow Republicans including State Representatives Alina Garcia and Juan Fernandez-Barquin, are scrambling to assuage fears of job losses and deportation, which are already driving workers away from Florida.
"The implications for agriculture are extremely dangerous. We are in desperate need of more legal workers, and this law will only exacerbate the problem," he cautioned.
Among the law's numerous provisions is a requirement for businesses with 25 or more employees to utilize E-Verify, a database that checks the eligibility of individuals to work legally in the United States.
Additionally, the law curtails social services for undocumented immigrants, allocates millions of additional tax dollars to expand Governor DeSantis' migrant relocation program, and mandates that hospitals receiving Medicaid funding inquire about patients' immigration status. Furthermore, it classifies the transportation of an immigrant who has not undergone official "inspection" as a felony offense, a provision that instills deep fear in mixed-status families who may need to travel across state lines together.
However, in an attempt to reassure long-time immigrant residents who already hold jobs, Roth is publicly delving into the details of the bill, hoping to persuade them not to flee the state, claiming that the law "is not as bad as you heard."
He further asserted, "The bill actually contains numerous loopholes that should provide you some comfort. Its main purpose is to discourage people from coming and to strengthen enforcement in the future."
Roth mentioned that if the bill had been intended for full enforcement, it would have included funding for enforcement measures. "That's why I'm trying to convey to people that it's more of a political bill than a policy-driven one," he explained.
During a faith-based event addressing the ramifications of the new law, Roth was caught on video imploring attendees not to leave the state despite the intimidating nature of the bill.
"This bill is specifically designed to frighten you," Roth admitted. "As a farmer, I can tell you that farmers are furious. We are already losing employees who are beginning to move to Georgia and other states. It is urgent that you reach out to your peers and convince them that there are resources available, such as state representatives and others who can explain the bill to you."
Representative Garcia, a Cuban immigrant who arrived in the U.S. at the age of 2, also spoke at the event and remarked that the new law has already achieved its intended purpose of deterring new arrivals to the state.
"This bill lacks any real bite," she added.
Neither representative addressed concerns about what undocumented workers might do if they were laid off from their current jobs after the law takes effect.
When questioned about the provisions in the bill that would criminalize mixed-status families traveling into Florida together, Roth suggested that it was unlikely that anyone would be charged.
The implications of Florida's new immigration law are troubling for businesses and workers alike, as the state's economy and immigrant communities brace for the forthcoming changes.`