In a month, Florida’s controversial new immigration law is scheduled to go into effect, and it will be interesting to see who it targets.
Will it be undocumented workers who often do the back-breaking work in Florida fields, atop Florida rooftops, and on Florida construction sites, often for lower wages than most Floridians would accept? Or will it be companies and corporations that exploit them for profit?
I think I know. But let’s look together. Because this is the first time Florida lawmakers have even pretended as if they could crack down on employers.
For years, Republican lawmakers yelled about illegal immigration but said nothing about those who benefited from the system. It was like yelling about human trafficking while giving the traffickers a pass.
Finally this year, after much attention on his selective outrage, lawmakers agreed to insert a provision into his new anti-immigration campaign that he claims to target employers. It promises hefty fines for any company with 25 or more employees that fails to check all of its hiring through the federal government’s E-Verify system.
But read the new law carefully. I did. A provision in SB 1718 gives any employer caught violating the law “30 days to cure the violation” before facing fines.
Think about that for a minute. How many other lawbreakers are treated that way? When cops catch a thief, they don’t say: Sir, you have 30 days to cure your “breach” of Florida theft laws before we do anything about it.
Another section says the $1,000 fines will start after the state finds an employer is breaking the rules “three times in a 24-month period.”
Again, can you imagine trotting out that excuse if you were they caught doing something illegal? (Officer, I know you caught me pouring gasoline down the storm drain. But it seems fair to wait until you catch me doing the same illegal thing two more times before taking action..)
White collar lawbreakers are rarely treated in the same way as petty thieves. And this law practically guarantees that that will continue to be the case.
If Florida legislators really wanted to crack down on employers who violate state and national hiring laws, it would be easy to do so.
The American Farm Bureau, after all, freely admits that more than half of its workforce is undocumented, stating on its website: “At least 50-70 percent of farmworkers in the country today are unauthorized.” “.
So if the state really cracked down after this new law goes into effect, more than half of this state’s farm workforce would be gone by the end of the summer. Crops would rot in the fields. Product prices would skyrocket.
As Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino recently wrote, Floridians angered by “stolen” jobs might “consider hot new career opportunities to pick vegetables, tar roofs or clean hotel bathrooms.”
This That’s why Republican lawmakers never wanted to crack down on undocumented workers. Florida’s low-wage economy, centered on tourism, construction and agriculture, would collapse without the more than 700,000 undocumented workers that make it work. (Besides, your campaign donors wouldn’t like it.)
Why do you think, when Ron DeSantis wanted to pull an immigration stunt by taking a group of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, he bypassed the hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers in the Florida workforce and went all the way to Texas?
Immigrant advocates in Florida were able to remove some of the worst parts of the law’s crackdown, including the original proposal to arrest anyone, including nuns and nonprofit workers, who helped an undocumented immigrant, possibly even if the assistant did not know.
“We were able to stop the most damaging parts,” said Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet, a Brazilian immigrant who is now executive director of the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka. “And the silver lining is that a new movement emerged. Talk later. We said: This is our home and we belong here. I call it new us.”
Sousa-Lazaballet still has many concerns about the new law, including the parts that ask hospitals to collect data on the immigration status of people who need help and the $12 million that lawmakers set aside for more relocation efforts, such as the last year involving Martha’s Vineyard.
In fact, I kind of sympathize with some of these businesses and industries that rely on undocumented workers. They have been put in a difficult position. They have customers who demand cheap products and politicians who refuse to pass sensible and meaningful immigration reform.
We are a nation full of people who feel entitled to 25-cent tomatoes and yet yell about the very workers who harvest that cheap food while accusing them of STEALING OUR JOBS!
It’s cheap and ugly politics. The real solution is both comprehensive reform and an American recognition that we cannot expect such cheap things.
But since Florida politicians aren’t very interested in comprehensive solutions, they simply vowed to crack down.
Well, if your version of the immigration crackdown is targeting people fleeing oppression and poverty, and not corporate entities trying to illegally profit from that misery, then you have a twisted set of values.
So we’ll see what Florida’s values are in a few weeks, when we see who the target is.