Some try to only drive for essentials and go to the supermarket less often. Others have stopped taking their children to parks and are afraid to leave them at school. There are people who rarely go out, avoid traveling to other states, going to the doctor, or even closing their business and moving. Many are on high alert after Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new immigration law in May.
Certain aspects of the law are already in force
Farm workers adjust the trellis for growing bitter melons, Sept. 5, 2023, in Homestead, Florida. Undocumented workers live in fear and anxiety due to the new law signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The regulation requires companies with more than 25 employees to check whether they have legal authorization.
“You’re going to see a massive surge of illegal aliens, you have a duty to make sure those borders are secure,” DeSantis said as he signed the bill, a day before the end of federal immigration restrictions in place during the pandemic.
One woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the risk of imprisonment, said the change in the law made her feel a fear similar to that which led her to leave her country.
“I imagined that we would have a better life and be quieter, but that wasn’t the case,” he said. “There is always the fear that something could happen to us.”
A mother of four talks to her little girl while playing after school on August 24, 2023 in Homestead, Florida. This Honduran applied for asylum and worked as a house painter when he arrived in the United States in 2021. Her employer, a Salvadoran who also does not have immigration status, abruptly closed his small business and left Florida.
The Honduran woman, a 31-year-old single mother, fled violence in her country with her four daughters in 2021 in search of peace in the United States. She applied for asylum and worked as a painter to support her daughters and her mother, who crossed the border illegally six years ago and has no legal status.
Before the new law was passed, her mother helped her by driving the girls to school. Now she fears the police will stop and arrest her for driving without a license.
825,000 people have no immigration status
There are approximately 4.6 million foreign nationals living in Florida, the vast majority from Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the most recent 2017 Pew Research Center survey, at least 825,000 of them do not have immigration status.
According to the American Business Immigration Coalition, a network of businesses and firms that promote national advancement, about half of these people make significant contributions to the workforce and to the state’s major industries, such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality, among others Immigration reform.
Salvador Rojas holds a photo of his family on September 14, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. Rojas and his two brothers were born in Central Florida. His parents, Mexicans, came to the state in 1999, but their documents are not in order. The father works in construction, but since a new state law was passed he has been spending more time at home because he cannot find work.
“(The law) impacts their ability to go about their daily lives the way they used to,” said Shalyn Fluharty, an immigration attorney and executive director of American for Immigrant Justice, a nonprofit that provides legal advice to people with limited resources.
“Whether (a person) needs to be afraid or not really depends on their unique, individual situation,” Fluharty said. His advice: If you’re afraid, contact a lawyer.
Authorities are already enforcing the new law
A Mexican man who arrived in Florida a year ago was arrested in August while returning from work in the neighboring state of Georgia. The Mexican consul in Orlando, Juan Sabines, told the AP that police stopped the white van he was driving because its window appeared to be darker than legal.
In this undated photo by Diego Rosas (right), he is seen having dinner with his family in Central Florida. Rojas and his two brothers were born in the United States, but their parents, Mexicans, came to the state in 1999 but did not have proper papers. The father works in construction, but since a new state law was passed he has been spending more time at home because he cannot find work.
The police report indicates there were six other people in the vehicle, including a child, but only the driver was arrested.
A 45-year-old Mexican man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of deportation, said a routine traffic stop in 2011 led to him being arrested and later repatriated for driving without a license.
His wife was pregnant and although he returned to his family in South Florida five months later, he was not present for the birth of their second American child.