Anguish and fear in Florida amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment

Anguish and fear in Florida amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment

NPR reports:

Manuel Vasquez says he remembers when people started to leave. When one by one, people in this community started vanishing.

It began about a year ago, in May 2023, when a new law was signed into law by Governor — and then presidential candidate — Ron DeSantis.

It’s considered one of the toughest immigration laws in the country.

Among other things, SB 1718 penalizes employers from using undocumented labor, prohibits undocumented people from having driver’s licenses, and defines giving an undocumented person a ride into the state of Florida as human smuggling. It also requires hospitals to include questions about immigration status.

The result has been a flight of immigrants leaving the state. And many who stayed behind say it has led to a terrifying rise in anti-immigrant sentiment.

Florida has for decades been synonymous with Latin American immigration. Around 1 out of 5 people in Florida is foreign-born. Close to 1 million are undocumented.

Vasquez, who owns an ice cream parlor, says most of his customers are immigrants, and many of them panicked when this law was passed.

“They were uncertain about what would happen next. They had no choice but to drive to work and were worried. ‘What if I don’t make it back home?’ They’d say, ‘What happens to my family, my children?’ ”

He estimates that about 30 percent of his customers left, mostly to the Carolinas, Georgia or other nearby states. And it has dealt a blow to his business. “It was a like a second pandemic.” [Continue reading…]

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