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Undocumented migrants being fired because of new Florida law

Florida's agriculture, construction and hospitality industries are starting to see labor shortages as undocumented workers flee the state.
Undocumented migrants being fired because of new Florida law
Posted at 5:12 PM, Jul 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-13 15:23:59-04

In Florida, the sun is not coming out for everyone.

"I'm the head of my household, I am the one who works hard to send money to my country for my family there," said an undocumented woman in Spanish, who, fearing retaliation, asked Scripps News to hide her identity.

She says she was fired from her job at a restaurant because she is undocumented.

"That day I went to work like any other normal day. The chef called me and said he had to talk to me. Without an excuse he fired me," said the woman.

She was let go the same day Florida's new immigration law went into effect, one championed by the state governor, and now presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.

SCRIPPS NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT AXEL TURCIOS: Did they give you a reason for letting you go?

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: I asked him why he was firing me without explanation, and he said he didn't have one, and I should just get my stuff and leave.

Reached by phone, a manager at the restaurant told Scripps News he couldn't comment on the woman's dismissal.

The law is causing outrage and fear among some in the state.

"Our politicians were very effective in creating fear and distress," said Renata Bozzetto, deputy director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Florida's agriculture, construction and hospitality industries are starting to see labor shortages as undocumented workers flee the state.

TURCIOS: How remarkable is the impact of this law just days after taking effect?

JUAN FLORES, IMMIGRATION ACTIVIST: Employees who have been working in construction and hospitality for 8, 10, and 15 years are being fired.

"It hasn't even been two weeks and we are already hearing of farmworkers who left the state and are afraid of coming back," said Bozetto.

"Some of them left with up to five family members," said Flores.

SEE MORE: Migrants from Florida sent to Sacramento detail their journey

Flores says his non-profit organization, "Fundación 15 de Septiembre" traveled throughout Florida to survey 500 undocumented workers. They found 4 out of 10 surveyed said they were leaving the state.

"We found out some went to Atlanta, Georgia, others left for North Carolina, and some left for New York."

Hermila Marquez, the owner of a nursery in Homestead, 30 miles southwest of Miami, told Scripps News she lost up to 50% of her employees. They are people she needs to help her maintain the plants, cut the grass and assist clients.

"The grass grows, it needs fertilizer and care, and I won't be able to do it alone. I could lose my business," said Marquez in Spanish.

A decade-old family business that used to employ up to 10 people is now threatened.

"I'm by myself, no one arrived today. I'm scared because I don't know how I'll be able to run my business. I'll do my best. I have no choice," added Marquez.

The Florida Policy Institute, a public policy think tank, says without undocumented workers, some of Florida's most labor-intensive industries would lose 10% of their workforce.

"This will impact the consumer, not only in the state of Florida, but throughout the U.S. because if there is no workforce, the price of products increases," said Flores.

TURCIOS: Juan, what comes next?

FLORES: We will continue to shine a light on the importance of immigrants in the United States and go to Washington to ask for protection for immigrants through an immigration reform.

As for the undocumented woman, she says she isn't letting go of her American dream.

TURCIOS: What is your dream?

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: My dream is to open my own restaurant.

Under the law, Florida will no longer recognize driver's licenses from other states who knowingly issue them to undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, immigrant advocates have announced they are filing the first lawsuit against the legislation.

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