“Without us there is no Florida,” immigrants stand up to DeSantis in march this Saturday

The “unity march” is called for this afternoon in Homestead and focuses mainly on challenges to the immigration law SB1718 that will go into effect on July 1.

MIAMI – “Without us there is no Florida” is the message of the immigrants who will participate this Saturday in a march in rejection of the policies of Governor and Republican primary candidate Ron DeSantis, who maintains an implacable stance against irregular immigration.

The “unity march” is called for this afternoon in Homestead, a town about 39 miles (60 km) south of Miami and dedicated mainly to agriculture, the economic sector that most fears the immigration law SB1718 that will go into effect on July 1, because it means losing a large part of its workforce.

“Enough! It’s time for all of us to take a stand against Governor Ron DeSantis and his vicious attacks on all working families,” says We Count! (We Count!) of Florida, the convener of this march.

The low-income immigrant workers and families of South Miami-Dade County who make up We Count!, the vast majority of whom are Central American and Mexican, are trying to “tell Governor Ron DeSantis: We are here and we are not leaving. Without us there is no Florida,” María Bilbao, a pro-immigrant activist, told EFE hours before the march.

Pro-Immigrant Organizations and Democrats Rally Against Controversial Anti-Immigration Law in Florida

Pro-immigrant organizations and the Florida Democratic Party have rejected SB1718, one of the toughest laws in the country, not only because of the suffering it will bring to the almost 800,000 undocumented immigrants in Florida, but also because of the effects on the state’s economy, which, they say, are already being felt.

Even the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, this week asked Hispanics not to vote for DeSantis, who, after a long wait, officially registered his candidacy for the primaries in which the Republican Party’s candidate for the White House in 2024 will be chosen.

DeSantis, who is second in the polls behind his former political godfather, former President Donald Trump, has made it clear in his first interviews as a candidate that he will make immigration the workhorse of his campaign.

According to Bilbao, the march of workers in South Florida is “to reject the anti-immigrant law” of DeSantis, which has “people very scared”.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried, formerly the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture, an elected position, says 60% of the state’s farm workers are in an irregular immigration status.

Agriculture, a $7.7 billion a year business, forms, along with tourism and construction, the “backbone” of Florida’s economy and all three sectors are dependent on foreign labor to function.

According to Fried at a press conference Friday in Miami, the effects of SB1718 are being felt in advance.

Immigrant Families Forced to Leave Florida Amid Controversial Anti-Immigration Law

Families of undocumented workers are leaving the state in search of “friendlier” places, crops in the countryside are “rotting” without being harvested, and there are labor shortages in commerce and construction.

The new law not only punishes companies that employ undocumented workers with heavy fines, but also punishes family members or others who help them, does not recognize driver’s licenses issued by states that are more benevolent towards these immigrants, and obliges medical centers to ask about a patient’s immigration status in order for it to be registered.

“There are many people leaving the state (Florida), leaving their jobs, leaving their homes, going to other states because they are scared,” said Bilbao, an Argentinean who was undocumented for more than a decade and is now a campaign coordinator for the pro-immigrant organization American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

The organizers of Saturday’s march plan to bring together immigrant workers and families, religious leaders and community organizations in front of Homestead City Hall.

“We all have our right to continue fighting (…) Don’t be afraid to be here in Homestead,” said a WeCount! activist in a video posted on social networks.

Bilbao adds: DeSantis “has created a war of cultures, of hate, and has put immigrants in more danger, because now people can have a gun on them. It’s crazy.

The activist referred to another law passed by the Florida Congress at DeSantis’ behest that allows people to carry firearms in public without permits or training.

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