On June 1, hundreds of Florida businesses were forced to shut their doors due to an immigrant labor strike dubbed, “A Day Without Immigrants.” Organized in response to SB 1718, the bigoted anti-immigration legislation signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the work stoppage brought thousands of workers of all backgrounds onto the streets in at least seven cities throughout the state.
SB 1718 has sparked a wave of outrage and resistance across the state. The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, requires employers with over 25 employees to use E-Verify, a notoriously unreliable federal online database meant to confirm whether someone is eligible to work in the United States.
Additionally, it prohibits municipalities and counties from allocating funds for community ID programs and makes out-of-state licenses illegal. It requires hospitals that get Medicaid dollars to ask a patient’s immigration status. It also allocates an additional $12 million to expand DeSantis’ migrant relocation program.
Cumulatively, this bill amounts to a sweeping attack on the immigrant population in Florida.
There are an estimated 800,000 undocumented workers in Florida, who work generally in the agricultural, construction and hospitality sectors. Since the bill was introduced, many videos have surfaced on Tik Tok showing paused construction sites and empty fields as undocumented workers flee the state.
Around 42% of Florida agricultural workers are undocumented. The state’s economy relies on agricultural exports, which amounted to $4.72 billion in 2021, so it’s no surprise that the overwhelming opposition to this law is sending the big business interests of Florida into a panic.
Less than a week after the June 1 strike, three Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill hosted an event in Hialeah geared towards South Florida Latino pastors, in an attempt to rewrite the narrative about this law.
State Rep. Rick Roth begged the audience to talk to their communities and convince them to stay in Florida. State Representative Alina Garcia, a Cuban immigrant, claimed, “This is a bill basically to scare people from coming to the state of Florida,” and that it has no teeth.
Roth, who owns a 4,000-acre farm, employing 25 full-time employees and 125 seasonal workers, went on to say that the bill was more of a “political bill” rather than actual policy. However, he immediately contradicted himself, admitting that the bill does give more power to Florida police to target immigrants.
Politicians promote anti-immigrant ideas
DeSantis, who announced his run for president late last month, is ramping up the racist, anti-immigration sentiment in an attempt to scapegoat immigrants for the deteriorating economic conditions workers are facing.
Rents, homeowner’s insurance, and utilities are skyrocketing in Florida while workers’ wages remain stagnant. Instead of alleviating these crises, this legislative session DeSantis signed bills banning rent control statewide, while giving huge handouts to developers and stripping dozens of Florida cities of their tenant protections. Additionally, a recent report detailed DeSantis’s $3.9 million in contributions from the insurance industry, which has received billion dollar giveaways while Florida homeowners’ ability to sue insurance companies has been made more arduous.
Both Republicans and Democrats lie about immigration during elections, but in different ways. Republicans try to rile up their base with bigotry while Democrats pretend to care about immigrant rights. DeSantis claims to be fighting “Biden’s Border Crisis,” meanwhile the Biden administration is adding National Guard troops to the border, expanding Border Patrol and ICE, and making it nearly impossible to gain asylum status. These policies expose the truth: Biden is no friend of immigrants. The Democratic Party has demonstrated that it is more than willing to use immigrants as a political bargaining chip, making false promises to win support while campaigning and abandoning them once in office.
Like so many other policies enacted in Florida this legislative session, this law is ultimately meant to keep workers divided and fighting among each other, instead of uniting and organizing for change.
Capitalism and imperialism cause the crises
The cost-of living crisis that workers are facing in the United States isn’t because “immigrants are taking our jobs,” it’s because of the billionaires that fund politicians like DeSantis. These politicians advance neoliberal policies like privatization and deregulation to protect and boost the billionaires’ profits at workers’ expense.
These policies extend out of the United States onto the Global South along with coups, sanctions, and debt trap, destabilizing and impoverishing countries and forcing many families to move. The system of U.S. imperialism is the real cause of the so-called immigration crisis.
Actions like “A Day without Immigrants” show that workers are uniting and fighting back against racist and anti-immigrant policies here within the United States, as well as against the system that causes the crisis.