Heightened Apprehensions: Immigrant Communities in Florida Navigate a Complex Reality Due to New Legislation

by Michael Nguyen
Florida's New Immigration Law

For the immigrant population in Florida, the past several months have witnessed a transition to a life increasingly dictated by a sense of apprehension and insecurity.

Many have opted to minimize driving and limit their grocery store visits. Some parents are hesitant to allow their children to attend school or even go to the park. Others have gone into hiding—avoiding interstate travel, forgoing regular medical appointments, or shutting down their businesses and relocating. All these precautions stem from a new immigration law enacted by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in May.

Regarded as one of the nation’s most stringent immigration laws, the legislation makes it illegal to transport immigrants who lack permanent legal status into Florida. It nullifies any U.S. government identification these individuals may possess and restricts local governments from issuing them identification cards. Hospitals that are Medicaid recipients are now required to inquire about patients’ immigration statuses, and businesses with a workforce of 25 or more must authenticate the legal status of their employees.

Additional components of the law are slated to take effect in the upcoming year.

Governor DeSantis, who is in the race for the presidency, signed the bill with the objective of winning conservative voter support. He has criticized the Biden administration for the significant increase in migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Ensuring that these borders are secure is your responsibility,” DeSantis stated, as he signed the law just one day before the expiration of federal immigration regulations enacted due to the pandemic.

Subsequent interviews by Big Big News with multiple immigrants have shown that everyday activities are now fraught with the fear of detention, family separation, and deportation.

An anonymous woman indicated that her perceptions of a safer life in the U.S. have been shattered by the law’s enactment.

“I had hoped that coming to the U.S. would grant us a better, more peaceful life, but that’s far from reality. The fear of adverse events is omnipresent,” she remarked.

The 31-year-old single mother, who escaped the violence in Honduras two years ago, had initially sought asylum and took up work as a house painter to support her family. Her mother, who also lacks permanent legal status, was previously comfortable driving her grandchildren to school. This is no longer the case due to fear of detainment and subsequent deportation.

“She’s exercising extreme caution, venturing out only when absolutely necessary,” the woman added.

The new law also led to the termination of her employment.

Her employer, also lacking permanent legal status, abruptly shut down his business and exited the state, leaving her concerned about her ability to financially sustain her family.

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, Florida hosts approximately 4.6 million foreign-born residents, with nearly three-quarters originating from Latin America and the Caribbean. At least 825,000 lack permanent legal status. Roughly half contribute to key sectors of Florida’s economy such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality, as per data from the American Business Immigration Coalition.

“The legislation is impeding their ability to conduct their daily lives as they once did,” stated Shalyn Fluharty, an immigration attorney and executive director of Americans for Immigrant Justice.

Experts like Fluharty deem the law ambiguous and perplexing, stating that it raises valid fears of mandatory detentions, arrests, and felony convictions for individuals who may be unaware that they could be targeted—this includes U.S. citizens who may be transporting immigrants lacking permanent legal status.

“Your level of fear really depends on your specific situation,” advised Fluharty. “If concerned, consult with an attorney.”

However, legal consultation is not a viable option for everyone.

Families with mixed legal statuses have had to adapt their lifestyles, often curtailing activities and travel to avoid risk of separation or detainment.

Salvador Rosas, a 22-year-old U.S.-born college student, has family members who are undocumented. Their regular family trips to Chicago have now been halted due to fears of legal repercussions.

“It’s already difficult as it is,” he said, referring to the new barriers imposed on his family’s movement.

Rosas himself, although a U.S. citizen, harbors fears about being detained while traveling back to Florida.

The fears of individuals like Rosas are not baseless. Enforcement of the new law has already begun.

Last month, a Mexican man who had been in Florida for a year was arrested while returning from Georgia. He was initially stopped for a window tint violation but was eventually charged with not possessing a valid driver’s license and multiple counts of smuggling undocumented individuals into Florida, as confirmed by Florida Highway Patrol and legal documents.

Another immigrant, a 45-year-old Mexican man who opted to remain anonymous for fear of deportation, mentioned that a routine traffic stop in 2011 led to a month-long detention and eventual deportation. After the law passed, he relocated 1,500 miles northwest to Wisconsin, where he finds the environment much more conducive to peace and confidence compared to Florida.

“I cannot risk leaving my family alone again,” he stated, recalling past experiences. “I’ve lived through that once.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Florida’s New Immigration Law

What is the key feature of Florida’s new immigration law?

Florida’s new immigration law criminalizes transporting immigrants lacking permanent legal status into the state and invalidates any U.S. government identification they might have. It also blocks local governments from providing them with ID cards.

How has the law affected the daily lives of immigrants in Florida?

Many immigrants in Florida have altered their daily routines out of fear of detainment, separation from their families, and deportation. Some have reduced their travel, while others no longer take their children to school or the park. Businesses have closed, and individuals are living in constant anxiety.

What is the significance of the 2017 Pew Research Center study mentioned in the article?

The study reveals that approximately 825,000 individuals in Florida lack permanent legal status, with many contributing to key industries such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality. This data highlights the significant economic and social impact of the new immigration law.

How are legal experts characterizing Florida’s new immigration law?

Legal experts, including immigration attorney Shalyn Fluharty, consider the law to be vague and confusing. They argue that it raises concerns about mandatory detention, arrests, and felony convictions, even for individuals unaware they could be targeted, including U.S. citizens transporting immigrants without permanent legal status.

Are there examples of the law being enforced?

Yes, there are instances of the law being enforced. A Mexican man was recently arrested in Florida for driving a van with window tints darker than the legal limit. This led to his arrest and subsequent charges related to smuggling undocumented individuals into the state.

How have families with mixed legal statuses adapted to the new law?

Families with mixed legal statuses have had to make significant adjustments to their lifestyles, often curtailing activities and travel to avoid the risk of separation or detainment. This includes U.S. citizens who are cautious about transporting family members lacking permanent legal status.

More about Florida’s New Immigration Law

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JohnDoe September 16, 2023 - 10:43 am

a serious issue bout dem laws in florida, afffectin’ lots of folks. dem immigrants, they’re strugglin’, dang!

InfoBuff2023 September 16, 2023 - 10:44 am

Florida’s got a big immigrant community, and dis law’s impact is huge. dis article, it got some good info, worth a read.

MamaBear4 September 16, 2023 - 9:57 pm

my heart goes out to them families, torn apart and livin’ in fear. dis law, it’s causin’ real pain and sufferin’.

LegalEagle87 September 17, 2023 - 4:54 am

dey say dat law is all messed up, confusin’ and scarin’ people who ain’t even know they in trouble. real bad situation.

NewsJunkie23 September 17, 2023 - 5:08 am

dis here law, it’s tough, folks hidin’ out, fearin’ deportashun. dis article, it lays it all out, good job!


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