TAMPA, Fl.a – Protests are taking place across Florida cities while some businesses shut their doors Thursday in opposition to a new immigration law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In Tampa, on North Dale Mabry at Columbus Drive, immigrants gathered holding signs while people driving by beeped their horns in support.
Sarasota-based Mexican radio station WTMY-FM reported a list of dozens of businesses that would be closed on Thursday.
“This Thursday, June 1, the immigrant community of Florida demonstrates the economic importance of its presence and contribution to our state, and for this reason conducts a strike joined by several important Hispanic businesses in our region, which in this way manifest their rejection to law 1718 that concerns many people as well as entrepreneurs. We consulted with the owners of various Hispanic businesses and many of them confirmed that tomorrow they will not open their doors and many workers have expressed their desire to participate in the strike,” said the outlet in a Facebook post.
In May, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said Thursday he anticipates farmers, along the construction and tourism industries, will face “challenges” due to the recently signed legislation that targets illegal immigration.
But in defending the need to secure the nation’s Southern border with Mexico, Simpson added he’s yet to hear of any issues surfacing since Gov. Ron DeSantis last week signed a bill (SB 1718) that steps up requirements on businesses to check the immigration status of workers.
The law, which doesn’t go into effect until July 1, also cracks down on people who bring undocumented immigrants into Florida and requires data from hospitals on whether patients are in the country legally.
“I think that we get it as farmers and as Americans and Floridians that you cannot keep having an influx of illegal folks coming across that border, realizing the tragedies that are happening on both sides of that border when they get here,” Simpson, an egg farmer, told The News Service of Florida after addressing the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee in May. “I think this is a minimal step that you have to take,” Simpson continued, “to make sure that we’re not promoting people that come from that border, that’s been raped and pillaged on one side of the border, with the fentanyl and the drugs that come to Florida, and think they can be employed.”
The law requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to check employees’ immigration status. Simpson said he’s heard from groups that believe the changes will pose a “challenge,” especially for tourism-related businesses.
Some farmers are already using the federal verification system.
Simpson also said he’s heard reports of Hispanic truckers protesting the law and workers failing to show up at construction sites, but said he hasn’t seen such actions.
“I think as people read the bill, I think as they get an understanding of what the assignments are, they’re law-abiding citizens, they’re gonna follow the law,” said Simpson, a Republican who served as president of the Florida Senate from 2020-2022. “And they’re going to run their business the way they have to. So, they can either complain about it or comply. And since it’s state law, they’re going to comply.”
DeSantis, who recently announced a 2024 presidential campaign, has fiercely criticized the Biden administration’s handling of migrants entering the country from the Southern border with Mexico.
In May, DeSantis sent 800 Florida National Guard troops, other law-enforcement officers and equipment to Texas to help with border control.
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