Mornings in Miami start with a traditional cafecito before Mirella Estrada starts working as a farm worker.
“It’s complicated and the buckets are heavy,” he said. “Beyond the high temperatures, you also have to be fast.”
The Mexican mother has been harvesting for more than 18 years under the Florida sun, but now her family’s future is uncertain.
“Florida won’t have people to help with the harvest,” Estrada said.
Estrada, along with many undocumented immigrants in Florida, is considering leaving the state in response to Governor Ron Desantis’ new immigration law. Part of the law requires employers with more than 25 employees to use a federal program called E-Verify to verify the immigration status of workers.
Advocates are concerned as impacts loom in Florida’s agriculture, construction and hospitality sectors.
“Some of the people who work on the farms have multiple families. Some have papers but others don’t,” said Claudia Gonzalez, an organizer with the Florida Farm Workers Association.
Driving through Homestead, 30 miles southwest of Miami, the fields are empty.
The farmer in an okra field told Scripps News before the law was signed that he would have up to 20 people working there. Now, that number has been reduced to 10 or less. He is now considering reducing the production of his crops.
The Florida Policy Institute estimates that without the undocumented workers, the state’s most labor-intensive industries would lose 10% of their workforce.
“It also targets people going in and out of the state,” said Isadora Velázquez, an immigration attorney.
Bottom line: Anyone caught transporting undocumented immigrants could face legal trouble.
SEE MORE: How Florida immigration law affects driver’s licenses from other states
“What we hope is that as people start to enter the border and are detained for other violations, it could raise questions about who they are transporting,” Velázquez said.
And there would be consequences for the resident US citizen, not just the immigrant. A citizen who transports an undocumented person could face up to five years in prison.
Scripps News asked Republican Florida state senator Blaise Ingoglia, one of the immigration bill’s sponsors, whether the law would be enforced by agencies such as bus companies and airlines. In a statement to Scripps News, he said: “Normal bus and plane travel would not apply, unless they were specifically and deliberately smuggling illegal immigrants (those who have crossed the border without a legal reason to be here) into the state”.
“A Day Without Immigrants” protests erupted across the state Thursday, calling for a labor strike by Florida businesses in solidarity with documented and undocumented workers. Many businesses closed their doors. Some truckers have reportedly halted deliveries in the state and viral videos online show empty work sites.
Estrada, her husband, and two of their children illegally crossed the US-Mexico border. Her 14-year-old daughter, the youngest, was born in the US.
She says that she is very afraid that they will separate her from her family and that her children will not know anything about Mexico; Her home is Florida.
SCRIPPS NEWS’ AXEL TURCIOS: If workers like you weren’t here, what would Florida be?
STREET: Nothing, because we are the ones doing the hard work. I have been in this country for 18 years and have never seen an American or a US citizen pick a tomato in the fields.
The law will go into effect on July 1. Lawyers and defenders are already saying they will challenge it in court.
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