Immigration

Hispanic leaders urge DeSantis not to sign immigration bill

A Florida bill would fine businesses that knowingly hire undocumented migrants, and also force hospitals to ask patients about immigration status.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis
Alberto Pezzali / AP
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Leaders of the Hispanic community in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday asked Gov. Ron DeSantis not to sign a controversial immigration measure into law.

Senate Bill 1718 would fine businesses that knowingly hire undocumented migrants and bolster citizen verification requirements for employers to ensure more use of the E-Verify system. It would also force hospitals to ask patients about their immigration status.

During a news conference in West Palm Beach on Monday, Mariana Blanco, the assistant executive director of the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth Beach, said the bill will cause "economic havoc" and "irreparable harm to the economy of the state of Florida."

"Senate Bill 1718 will have a detrimental effect on the economy of the state of Florida," Blanco said. "It will increase crime since the trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community will be hampered."

Blanco, who was joined by more than a dozen members of local churches, businesses and nonprofit agencies, said the bill will force local companies to leave the state and deter new businesses from coming to Florida.

"People are going to stop going to the hospitals and to the emergency rooms to access health care," Blanco said. "Now if they have an emergency and they need serious access to health care, where are they going to do it, in their homes?"

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Florida Gov. DeSantis said he recognizes the bill will be challenged in the Supreme Court, but believes the court's precedent is "wrong."

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Members of the Hispanic Leadership Coalition of Palm Beach County said it won't just affect the health of migrants.

They believe elderly individuals will be at risk because the law would criminalize nursing home operators and at-home health care companies for hiring undocumented workers.

"By not allowing undocumented folks to work, you're losing a large part of the workforce that could attend to nursing homes," Blanco said.

Republicans in the Florida Legislature voted in favor of the reform bill before the end of the legislative session. 

"We passed so many meaningful pieces of legislation in the best interest of all of our constituents," Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, president of the Florida State Senate, said. 

State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, sponsored the legislation and called it the "strongest and most robust" anti-illegal immigration bill in the United States. The lawmaker was hopeful it would push other states to enact similar legislation.

"Pushing back on the federal government," Ingoglia said. "Hopefully, force the federal government to do something about the open borders and fix the legal immigration system."

DeSantis has previously called for strengthening the state's laws against illegal immigration. 

Immigration advocates know their plea to the governor is a last-ditch effort. 

"Employers don't want to be at risk for sanctions, so they will be let go, and it's going to cause a problem in our community health-wise," added local immigration attorney Miriam Acosta-Castriz. 

Immigration attorneys and the ACLU have signaled they will mount a court challenge of the measure's constitutionality if the governor signs the bill into law.

This story was originally published by Dave Bohman, Matt Papaycik and Forrest Saunders on wptv.com.