A new Florida law is aimed at undocumented immigration, but its impact may go well beyond that. Critics say they are already having a profound impact on many individuals and Florida businesses that do business with them.
The new law, which went into effect in July, imposes many new requirements on businesses. Hospitals must now ask patients about their immigration status and keep records of the costs involved in treating undocumented patients. It also requires many other employers to use an electronic database to check the immigration status of their employees. It even makes it a crime for anyone to transport a person who has entered the country illegally.
Proponents of the law say that it will help the state control the costs of illegal immigration.
Impact on the community
Critics say the law is already having an impact on agriculture, construction, hospitality and other industries that tend to rely on undocumented workers to do difficult work that other people don’t want to do. In a recent news report, an employer in the construction industry said he lost 40% of his employees after the law went into effect. Another contractor said he was unable to hire the out-of-state firm he wanted because its employees refused to travel to Florida.
The law is also having a direct impact on small businesses that cater to Florida’s immigrant population. Many of these businesses are run by people who are legal residents of the United States. They now see some of their customers staying home out of fear, or leaving the state altogether. What’s more, some aspects of the law — such as the transportation restriction — can threaten the immigration status of people who are legal residents.
So far, it is not clear how the state will enforce the law. The situation is very much unsettled. At times like this, it becomes increasingly important for all immigrants — documented and otherwise — to learn about their rights.