Lifelong GOPer fears DeSantis will 'destroy' Florida businesses as  anti-immigrant law sparks mass exodus

Lifelong GOPer fears DeSantis will 'destroy' Florida businesses as  anti-immigrant law sparks mass exodus
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Phoenix in August 2022 (Gage Skidmore)
Economy

A new Florida law cracking down on undocumented immigrants, signed last month by far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis and set to take effect on July 1, has pushed thousands of workers to flee the state.

Now even some capitalists who otherwise support DeSantis and the state's GOP-controlled House and Senate are beginning to speak out about how the law is likely to hurt their bottom lines.

As The Tallahassee Democrat reported Tuesday:

In his packing plant, Graves Williams, a lifelong Republican, proudly explained the skill, labor, and manpower needed to provide tomatoes across North America, a feat that he says wouldn't be possible without immigrant laborers.

"We all love them to death," said Williams, whose family has been farming tomatoes for decades. "We couldn't run a business without them."

Williams, the owner of Quincy Tomato Company, may soon be forced to try. Following right-wing lawmakers' passage of Senate Bill 1718, thousands of working-class immigrants, including many who are residing lawfully in the U.S., have opted to leave Florida.

The new law places harsh restrictions on undocumented immigrants. Among other things, it also requires the "repayment of certain economic development incentives" if the state, which plans to conduct random audits of businesses, "finds or is notified that an employer has knowingly employed" an undocumented immigrant without verifying their employment eligibility.

At the bill signing ceremony on May 10, DeSantis, who is now campaigning for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, slammed President Joe Biden's ostensibly lax immigration policies, saying: "We have to stop this nonsense, this is not good for our country... this is no way to run a government."

Data released earlier this month showed that unauthorized crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border fell sharply after the Biden administration imposed new asylum restrictions that went into effect when Title 42 ended on May 11. Undermining DeSantis' dubious accusation of inaction at the border, immigrant rights groups have condemned Biden's crackdown on asylum-seekers, saying the president's new ban deepens the bipartisan abandonment of international human rights law set in motion by the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, in Florida, DeSantis' xenophobic approach has sparked fears that "a labor shortage will leave crops unpicked, tourist hotels short of staff, and construction sites idle," The Tallahassee Democrat noted.

Notably, concerns are emanating from some Republican proprietors.

"How can one man pass one law and destroy all these businesses in Florida?" asked Williams.

"It's almost like he's doing it on purpose," Williams said. "I know he's doing it for politics, but the end results, it's going to be hard."

According to The Tallahassee Democrat: "Florida employers in construction, restaurants, landscaping, and many other service sectors already are struggling to fill jobs during what has been a post-pandemic, sustained stretch of low unemployment. The new immigration limits will compound that, many say."

However, the newspaper observed, many business owners still "refuse to speak publicly about the measure, fearing it could antagonize DeSantis."

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