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Will Florida's immigration law spark a South Florida migrant worker exodus?

C.M. Guerrero
/
Miami Herald

Immigration advocates and employers say Florida's new Anti-Illegal Immigration Law is already spurring migrant workers to leave the state — even those with legal status.

Florida’s new immigration law makes it a crime to transport undocumented migrants into Florida. It requires employers to verify workers’ immigration status. And it orders hospitals to collect that information, too.

As a result, immigration advocates say many migrant worker families here in South Florida are getting ready to leave the state — even those with legal status.

“Immigrant families are thinking that there’s going to be raids, police pickups, checkpoints," says Oscar Londoño, executive director of the migrant workers support nonprofit WeCount! in Homestead.

"They’ve been hearing from different sources, many of them unreliable, that they’re going to lose their jobs overnight. They’re asking whether they’re going to be able to access medical care.”

READ MORE: Undocumented migrants: If we're 'essential' workers during COVID-19, why detain us?

Londoño says employers in South Florida are also voicing fears about a possible migrant exodus — and the significant economic impact.

“Employers who depend on immigrant workers — plant nursery owners, farms, constructions sites — are already experiencing tight labor markets," Londoño says, "and many of them are concerned about whether or not they’re going to be able to retain that labor force moving forward.”

That worry is acute in other parts of the region, including Palm Beach County, where migrant worker advocates at the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth are also reporting the beginnings of a migrant family exit from Florida.

Calling attention to the economic impact was Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried. She was joined at a news conference on Friday by City of Miami Commissioner Sabina Covo and other local community leaders to denounce DeSantis and his "extreme immigration" policies.

"We're already seeing immigrants leaving Florida for other states for fear of being deported, leaving vacant job sites and agricultural fields across the state," said Fried in a statement. "The economic impact of this new legislation will be far-reaching."

They noted that Florida is home to about 800,000 undocumented immigrants and represent about 60 percent of all farm workers.

Florida’s new Anti-Illegal Immigration Law goes into effect July 1.

Copyright 2023 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.
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