'Who’s going to work?' Migrant workers flee Florida as DeSantis’ new anti-immigrant law takes effect
Business owners in Florida are worried after Governor Ron DeSantis’ new anti-immigrant law took effect on Saturday, forcing many migrant workers to flee the state and head north, to states like North Carolina and Georgia.
“It was a very difficult decision, but we didn’t want to live in fear, so we moved up north,” Romeo Lucas told The Wall Street Journal, which reports he “would be directly affected by the new law.”
Lucas “worked at a plant nursery in Miami’s agricultural district for a decade, but recently moved to North Carolina. He said he was worried that he could become separated from his children.” His wife has diabetes, and he was concerned for his family’s ability to access health care in Florida as well.
DeSantis’ “new law requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to question a patient’s immigration status, and invalidates out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to people unauthorized to be in the U.S. It makes it a third-degree felony to knowingly transport into Florida a person who is undocumented and illegally entered the U.S. The law also adds $12 million to the amount of money the state has earmarked for its migrant-relocation program, bringing the total to $22 million this year.”
It also, the Journal adds, “makes it a third-degree felony for unauthorized people to knowingly use a false identification to obtain employment. Businesses that knowingly employ unauthorized workers could have their licenses suspended, and those with 25 or more employees that repeatedly fail to use the E-Verify system to check their immigration status can face daily fines.”
Mahendra Raolji, who runs a large farming and packaging facility, Jalaram Produce, with his wife and business partner, Prafula Raolji, “said more than half his workers have gone.”
Prafula Raolji is “worried about enforcement of the law,” The Journal reports. “I pray it won’t happen. Because then who is going to work?” she said.
It’s not just farming. Construction is also being hit hard.
“At site after site,” in downtown Miami, “the story was the same. Workers have fled.”
One “worker said that he had lost about half his crew. They went to Indiana, he said, where jobs are paying $38 an hour instead of $25, and where they won’t have to look over their shoulders.”
The farm and construction labor shortage was a huge challenge to businesses even before DeSantis’ law went into effect July 1, as DeSantis’ administration cracked down on migrants.
An opinion piece in the South Florida Sun Sentinel in early June noted third generation Palm Beach County sugarcane farmer and GOP state lawmaker Rick Roth “was mad as hell about Florida’s draconian new immigration law that’s scaring away workers and exacerbating the state’s labor shortage, particularly in the agriculture sector.”
“I’m a farmer and the farmers are mad as hell,” Roth told a meeting of the Hispanic Ministers Association. The piece notes DeSantis “thinks immigrant-stomping will get him to the White House.”
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