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MIAMI, Florida – In the aftermath of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ signing of a controversial bill, Florida may shortly be witnessing a mass exodus of Caribbean and Latin American immigrants, signaling a seismic shift in immigration patterns within the state.
This departure comes at a grave cost, as Florida heavily relies on its immigrant population, which constitutes over one-fifth of its residents. Alarming statistics reveal that in 2018 alone, 4.5 million immigrants, accounting for 21 percent of the population, called Florida their home.
Compounding the concern is the fact that one in every five Florida residents is an immigrant, highlighting the significant presence and impact of these individuals on the state’s social fabric and economy. Furthermore, one in eight residents consists of native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent, further underscoring the intermingling of immigrant and native-born populations.
However, in the face of the new legislation, Caribbean and Latin American immigrants are reluctantly choosing to abandon the Sunshine State and seek refuge elsewhere. The ramifications of this exodus are far-reaching, with profound implications for Florida’s long-term prosperity. With such a substantial portion of its workforce and cultural heritage departing, the state is poised to endure severe consequences.
Florida’s economy, in particular, stands to suffer the most from this mass exodus. Key industries such as agriculture, hospitality, and construction heavily rely on the immigrant workforce, which has been an integral part of driving growth and development. As these immigrants depart, labor shortages loom, potentially destabilizing these industries and causing economic decline in the process.
Moreover, the departure of these immigrants threatens to erode the state’s cultural diversity, which has been a defining characteristic of Florida for decades. The vibrant traditions, enriching cuisines, and invaluable contributions of Caribbean and Latin American immigrants have significantly shaped the state’s identity. Their absence risks diluting the cultural fabric and may negatively impact Florida’s allure as a diverse and inclusive destination.
Florida now stands at a pivotal juncture. The signing of the controversial bill has triggered an unintended consequence—an exodus of Caribbean and Latin American immigrants that has exposed the state’s heavy dependence on their contributions. With more than one in five residents being immigrants, and one in eight being native-born citizens with immigrant parents, the loss of this vital population is a blow that Florida cannot afford to ignore.
The state must navigate these challenges strategically and proactively. It is imperative for Florida to acknowledge the crucial role immigrants play in its economic and cultural landscape, and to work towards fostering an inclusive environment that values and supports their contributions. Failure to do so risks prolonged economic downturn and cultural homogeneity, robbing Florida of its unique identity and driving away potential future growth.
As Florida witnesses this exodus unfold, it must reflect on the immense value that its immigrant population has brought to the state. Whether it can pivot, adapt, and rekindle its relationship with these communities, or succumb to the consequences of its actions, will determine the state’s trajectory in the years to come.
The legislation imposes enforceable penalties for those employing illegal aliens, and enhances penalties for human smuggling. Additionally, the bill prohibits local governments from issuing Identification Cards (ID) to illegal aliens, invalidates ID cards issued to illegal aliens in other states, and requires hospitals to collect and submit data on the costs of providing healthcare to illegal aliens.
This bill also expands penalties for employers who fail to comply with E-Verify requirements, including the possible suspension and revocation of employer licenses and the imposition of specific penalties on employers that knowingly employ illegal aliens.
Additionally, this legislation creates a third-degree felony for an unauthorized alien to knowingly use a false ID document to gain employment and prohibits a county or municipality from providing funds to any person or organization for the purpose of issuing IDs or other documents to an illegal alien.
Importantly, illegal aliens will no longer be permitted to rely on out-of-state driver licenses. If another state issued a license to an illegal alien who was unable to prove lawful presence in the U.S. when his or her license was issued, that person is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle in Florida.
This bill also adds the crime of human smuggling to the list of crimes allowed for prosecution under the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act.
This legislation will additionally require each hospital that accepts Medicaid to include a question on admission or registration forms that asks whether the patient is a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the U.S. or is not lawfully present in the U.S.
Hospitals will be required to provide a quarterly report to the Agency for Health Care Administration detailing the number of patients that visited the emergency department or were admitted to the hospital in each category of the citizen status question on the admission or registration forms.
Eliminates tuition fee waivers for undocumented immigrant students.
ID and driver’s licenses
The new legislation also prohibits counties and municipalities from providing funds to any person, entity or organization to issue identification documents to a person who does not provide proof of legal presence in the United States.
In addition, certain driver’s licenses and permits issued by other states exclusively to unauthorized immigrants will not be valid in Florida.
Law enforcement agencies will be required to collect DNA samples from individuals who do not possess regulated immigration status and are detained under a federal detainer request.
Approximately 4.5 million Caribbean immigrants resided in the United States in 2019, representing 10 percent of the nation’s 44.9 million total foreign-born population. Close to 90 percent of immigrants in the United States from the 13 Caribbean countries and 17 dependent territories come from one of four countries: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Haiti.
The Caribbean is the most common region of birth for the 4.5 million Black immigrants in the United States, accounting for 46 percent of the total. Jamaica (16 percent) and Haiti (15 percent) are the two largest origin countries for Black immigrants.