Immigration

Florida's new immigration law creates 'panic' in agriculture community

The law, which cracks down on illegal immigration, will have a wide-ranging impact on a number of vital industries.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Rebecca Blackwell / AP

Supporters believe a new Florida law recently signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis will crack down on illegal immigration.

Among the new law's provisions:

    - Tougher penalties for knowingly hiring or transporting undocumented people in the state 

    - E-Verify employment screening for new hires at businesses with 25 or more employees

    - Florida hospitals will collect immigration status and the state will no longer recognize outside driver licenses for people who are undocumented

    - Florida's migrant relocation program also gets another $12 million after previously flying nearly 50 undocumented from Texas to Martha's Vineyard. 

However, from farming to construction, the law is expected to have a wide-ranging impact on a number of industries vital to Florida's economy.

Scripps News West Palm is told that some farm workers are already too scared to go to work and are considering leaving the state, which could cause a huge staffing crisis for Florida agriculture.

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"Everybody is in a panic because nobody knows what's going to happen," immigration attorney Gina Fraga said.

The new law is causing concerns for the agriculture community.

"I've been hearing that probably they will not be sending their kids to school, and they are afraid to go to work, and it's sad," Denise Negron, the executive director of the Farmworker Coordinator Council of Palm Beach County.

The new bill requires employers with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify system to check legal status and those who fail to comply will be fined $1,000 per day.

"This is the people that we have to thank because thanks to them we have food on our tables," Negron said. "Agriculture and farm work is a job that nobody wants to do."

During a Thursday fundraiser gala for the Farmworker Coordinating Council, Negron said she worries for the organization's future as they work to provide social and human services to farm workers.

"Obviously they’re very worried because they could be fined they could be imprisoned by just transporting farm workers that maybe they don't have the specific documents that they need right now," Fraga said.

Fraga said an issue right now is immigration has a backlog of more than 10 months to get a work permit

"So their employers have told them, 'Unfortunately after July 1, if you don't bring me some documentation that's valid, unfortunately, you're going to be let go,'" Fraga said.

According to the migration policy institute, nearly 800,000 undocumented people live in Florida.

Fraga said the industries that will be most impacted will be the farming industry, construction and hospitality.

This story was originally published by Scripps News West Palm.