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Florida's immigration bill targets more than just undocumented migrants

Brynn Anderson

A piece of legislation recognized as an “anti-illegal immigration bill” is making its way through the Florida Legislature and looks likely to pass.

SB 1718 proposes harsh punishments not just for undocumented migrants who are in the state , but for anyone who hires or helps them. That could have a dramatic effect on South Florida, economically, in agriculture and tourism ; and socially, in hospitals and universities.

The bill proposes completely cutting funds to community ID programs, like the one Miami-Dade County has in place, asking for one 's immigration status on hospital admission and registration forms, and criminalizing knowingly and willingly transporting undocumented migrants in or within the state, among other things.

On the South Florida Roundup, WLR N spoke to Tessa Petit, the co-executive director for the Florida Immigration Coalition, about the bill and its components. “This bill will impact everyone in the state of Florida as we look at it," Petit said. " People tend to think that it's only going to impact immigrants, but it goes further. ”

Florida District 11 Senator Blaise Ingoglia introduced the bill, which Gov . Ron DeSantis supports. Ingoglia told the Senate Rules Committee he wants to get other states to adopt similar legislation so that the federal government does something about illegal immigration and the crisis on the U.S. southern border.

“If we can get Florida and Texas to pass comprehensive statewide anti-illegal immigration reform in the states, if we have Florida and Texas, the second and third largest states in the union, the federal government will react,” he said.

Petit said that policies like SB 1718 are targeting undocumented migrants that are already in the United States and exacerbating fear in the community. One of the more controversial points of this bill is the component that would get someone in legal trouble for giving an undocumented immigrant a ride.

“This is going to put a strain on our judicial system. This is going to cost the state a fortune,” she said. “ But more than likely , the worst part is that it is going to put an emotional and social strain on our community and divide us.”

Another part of the bill would require some hospitals to collect information on patients’ immigration status when they’re being admitted. The bill states they would not share that private information but just provide numbers and the medical costs for the state.

In this case, Petit said undocumented people will not seek medical care because of the level of fear that is already prevalent in the immigrant community. “Children are not going to access care. Parents are not going to access care. And that level of fear and that level of division in our communities is just going to exacerbate the tensions that all of the other bills are already putting on us in the state,” she said. 

Senate Bill 1718 has at least one more committee stop before going to the floor for a vote. On the South Florida Roundup, we also spoke about the spring break violence in South Beach and the continuously worsening gang violence in Haiti. Listen to the full episode above.

Copyright 2023 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Helen Acevedo