Florida Policy Researcher Explains How Immigrants Affect the Economy

Earlier this month, Governor DeSantis signed legislation that makes sweeping changes to immigration laws in Florida.

Supporters say the changes will help curb illegal immigration, while immigration advocates say it sends a message that immigrants are not welcome in Florida.

According to the National Sheriffs Association, illegal immigration is unsustainable from a security and economic standpoint.

Sadaf Knight, executive director of the Florida Policy Institute, discusses how immigrants impact our economy and how responses to the new law could affect you.

Listen to the full conversation in the player above.

    Sadaf Knight is the executive director of the Florida Policy Institute.

Florida Policy Institute


Florida Policy Institute

Sadaf Knight is the executive director of the Florida Policy Institute.

Impact on the economy and on you

Viral videos of people speaking out against new Florida immigration laws have some worried about the impact on the economy.

Based on Florida Policy Institute research, Knight said these new laws could cost the state $12.6 billion in GDP in one year.

He adds that consumers can feel that loss when they go to the store.

“Many of the goods and services that you rely on on a daily basis may become more expensive or may become less available.”

However, supporters of the new immigration laws say the bill could provide some relief to residents.

In a statement sent to WMFE, the Federation for American Immigration Reform said: “Illegal immigration costs Florida taxpayers more than $8 billion annually, which means each household has a financial burden of just under a thousand dollars. Those charges come from education, legal, health care, and all other fees associated with supporting illegal immigrants in Florida communities.”

However, Knight said undocumented workers also put money back into the economy.

“Whether you’ve been granted legal status or not, you’re still paying your taxes. And we have an estimate from a few years ago, showing that undocumented immigrants contributed nearly $600 million annually to Florida state and local taxes. “.

He adds that Florida’s new immigration laws will have a significant impact on the economy, as they create a culture of fear, which could influence people to continue moving to the state for work.

“We’re already seeing on social media, and even in news reports, that people just decide to leave and not show up for work because there’s a culture of fear and a chilling effect,” Knight said. “Regardless of what it specifically says in the bill, there are broader implications for how it makes people feel.”


According to the Florida Policy Institute, more than one in five residents of the state are immigrants.

Knight said it represents 21% of the state’s population at 4.3 million people.

“In Central Florida we also have a significant immigrant population, which is about 15% of the population. And in some counties it’s much higher. For example, in Orange County, it’s 22% of the population.”

He adds that in Florida, the top five countries where immigrants come from are Cuba, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico and Jamaica.

“In fact, we have the second highest proportion of black immigrants in the United States. New York is the state with the highest.”

When looking at the makeup of Florida’s economy, Knight said there is a significant presence of immigrants in key industries.

She points to the COVID-19 pandemic where more than one in four frontline workers in Florida were immigrants.

“These are in sectors like healthcare, child care, social services and transit, and all the different frontline industries.”

She adds that the state also relies on 150,000 to 200,000 seasonal and migrant farmworkers annually.

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