What would Florida be like without immigrants?

I remember covering the first “Day Without Immigrants” in May 2006. It was a nationwide action that included strikes, shutting down meatpacking plants, food service companies, and other businesses, consumer boycotts, and protests that drew more than a million people. of people. to the streets The mobilization was in response to the so-called Sensenbrenner bill, approved by the US House of Representatives. Representatives, that would make it a felony for an unauthorized immigrant to be in the country or to anyone to help one.

As far as flexing the collective muscle of undocumented people in the United States, the action made a compelling statement. In Lawrence, most Latino businesses have closed and about 1 in 3 students stayed home. In Chelsea, as The Boston Globe reported, 1 in 4 students did not go to school. Nationwide, Goya Foods reportedly suspended food deliveries, except in Florida, in what Goya called a gesture of solidarity with the immigrants who are its main customers.

Fast forward to 2023. Florida has become a laboratory for xenophobic and extreme measures. And last week, similar “A Day Without Immigrants” rallies were held in several cities to protest the anti-immigrant law signed by Florida Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis last month. The sweeping law, among other provisions, restricts social services for undocumented residents and revokes their driver’s licenses, requires hospitals that receive federal dollars to add a citizenship question to intake forms, and cracks down on businesses that They employ undocumented workers.

It is clear that when it comes to efforts to persuade far-right anti-immigrant legislators on Capitol Hill that the cost of living without immigrants is too high, those campaigns have not been effective. While the 2006 Sensenbrenner legislation was ultimately struck down, a counter-effort in the US Senate that would have legalized the undocumented population met the same fate. A similar national Day Without Immigrants campaign returned in 2017, when former President Donald Trump, with his string of xenophobic edicts, occupied the White House. The same thing happened last year, but the 2022 action was to push President Biden to do more to protect undocumented immigrants.

In fact, such protests feel all too familiar, a rinse-and-repeat cycle that follows the intractable immigration policy the country seems to have been trapped in for the past two decades. The past is always present.

But the draconian law that DeSantis signed may give us an idea of ​​what it is like to live without immigrants. Although it goes into effect on July 1, the law is already pushing some immigrants to leave the state. There is no data yet, only anecdotes and publications on social networks. Since the beginning of May, dozens of videos showing empty workplaces in Florida have accumulated views on TikTok and Twitter.

Nearly a million undocumented immigrants call Florida home. And more than 2 million Floridians have at least one immigrant parent. The new law will punish mixed families; undocumented parents who take their US-born children to school can be punished.

Meanwhile, in a completely predictable turn of events, DeSantis appears to be stuck in his own cycle, with Republican presidential hopefuls trying to outdo one another on immigration policy. Word broke over the weekend that the DeSantis administration may have brought more than a dozen immigrants to Sacramento without warning. The migrants were dropped off in front of a Catholic church on Friday. (By the way, the Florida law DeSantis signed allocates more funding to his migrant resettlement program for those types of stunts.)

I now view the Day Without Immigrants protests, strikes, and boycotts as a form of powerless resistance or pushback that galvanizes immigrants but not lawmakers. Ultimately, they underscore what should be obvious to anyone being impartial: immigrants foster economic growth. No immigrants? No economic growth. But who is listening?

Marcela García is a columnist for the Globe. You can reach her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @marcela_elisa and on Instagram @marcela_elisa.