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  • Writer's pictureSam Orlando

DeSantis' Immigration Plan: Florida State Troopers as ICE Officers and Felonies for Those Who Help

Written by: Sam Orlando

Orlando, FL - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is pushing for a stringent immigration enforcement package, which, if passed, would be the state's most aggressive crackdown on undocumented immigrants in over a decade. The proposed legislation, supported by the Republican-dominated state legislature, is a response to what DeSantis perceives as President Biden's "open borders agenda." The governor's proposals have ignited controversy, with critics warning of potential racial profiling, economic harm, and fear within the immigrant community.

The proposed bills encompass a wide range of measures, including the introduction of felony charges for those found sheltering, hiring, or transporting undocumented immigrants, as reported by The New York Times. Furthermore, hospitals would be required to inquire about patients' immigration status and report their findings to the state, while out-of-state driver's licenses issued to undocumented immigrants would become invalid. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement would also be directed to assist federal authorities in enforcing national immigration laws.

In addition to these measures, DeSantis has proposed ending in-state college tuition for undocumented students and beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was enacted by his predecessor, Rick Scott, in 2014. While supporters of the bills argue that they aim to ensure legal immigration processes are followed, opponents claim the legislation would promote racial profiling, disrupt Florida's economy, and contradict efforts in other states to integrate the undocumented population, according to The New York Times.

As the debate continues, some Republican-led states have adopted inclusive policies to provide undocumented residents with health care, higher education access, driver's licenses, and worker protections. Other Republican governors, such as Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Spencer Cox of Utah, have called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, citing the contributions of foreign workers to their respective states.

However, Texas has opted for a more restrictive approach, with Republican state lawmakers proposing a significant expansion of immigration control measures led by Governor Greg Abbott, as noted by The New York Times. The draft legislation would create a state border police force and make illegally crossing the border into Texas a state felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Amidst a record 2.5 million migrant interceptions at the border in 2021, both DeSantis and Abbott have accused President Biden of losing control of the situation, according to The New York Times. In response, DeSantis has taken several high-profile actions, including commissioning private planes to transport Venezuelan migrants to Massachusetts and activating the National Guard in response to Cuban and Haitian migrants arriving in Florida. Critics argue that the new bills would lead to racial profiling and fear within immigrant communities, as police officers would be tasked with determining an individual's immigration status, as reported by The New York Times. Additionally, opponents warn that requiring hospitals to collect immigration data could discourage undocumented immigrants from seeking medical care.

The controversial legislation has also drawn opposition from Florida's business community, which is grappling with a labor shortage and a low unemployment rate, according to The New York Times. More than one in five Florida residents are immigrants, and the state relies heavily on undocumented immigrants in industries such as agriculture, tourism, and elderly care.

As the Republican-led Florida legislature fast-tracks the proposed bills, the potential consequences of their passage remain hotly debated. While some see the legislation as a necessary measure to protect Florida from the consequences of unchecked immigration, others argue that it would only serve to harm the state's economy and drive away valuable members of the community.

The proposed legislation would have widespread effects on the daily lives of Floridians. According to The New York Times, as the bill is currently written, there are no exceptions for individuals who may inadvertently be involved with undocumented immigrants. Legal analysts have pointed out that the law could potentially be applied to an adult child of an undocumented immigrant driving a parent, a lawyer driving a client to court, or even someone driving a sports team with a player lacking legal status in the United States. Landlords renting to undocumented families or individuals housing undocumented workers, such as housekeepers or caretakers, could also be affected.

Critics, like Paul Chavez, a lawyer affiliated with the Southern Poverty Law Center, have expressed concern about the legislation's broad applications, preparing to challenge the bills in court if they pass, according to The New York Times.

In addition to the potential for racial profiling and fear, the legislation has raised concerns about the impact on Florida's economy. More than one in five Florida residents are immigrants, and an estimated 800,000 of them are undocumented. Furthermore, 722,000 American citizens in the state live in households with at least one undocumented immigrant. Industries like agriculture, tourism, and elderly care rely heavily on undocumented immigrants, which could be negatively impacted by the legislation.

Business leaders, such as Mike Fernandez of the American Business Immigration Coalition, have voiced their opposition to the bills, arguing that they could hurt Florida's economy and deter valuable talent from staying in the state, according to The New York Times.

Despite the controversy surrounding the legislation, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature is expected to fast-track the bills during the current session, which ends in May. State Senator Blaise Ingoglia, who sponsored one of the bills, has praised Governor DeSantis for his leadership on the issue, stating, "This problem is now at our doorstep, and Florida will not stand for it anymore."

As the immigration debate intensifies in Florida and across the nation, the consequences of the proposed legislation – both intended and unintended – will continue to be closely scrutinized. Whether the bills pass or not, they will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the lives of Florida residents and shape the larger conversation surrounding immigration policy in the United States.

While the passage of the bills remains uncertain, the legislation has already garnered significant attention and sparked debate on the local and national levels. Some proponents argue that the bills are necessary to address the influx of undocumented immigrants into the state and maintain public safety, while others see the legislation as overly punitive and potentially harmful to the state's economy and social fabric.

If the bills pass and become law, there is a strong likelihood that they will face legal challenges from organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which argue that the legislation could lead to racial profiling and infringe on the rights of both citizens and non-citizens alike. Furthermore, the impact on Florida's healthcare system, as hospitals would be required to collect data on patients' immigration status and report it to the state, remains a concern for many.

On the other hand, if the bills fail to pass or are struck down in court, the debate surrounding immigration policy will likely persist, as Florida continues to grapple with the challenges posed by a large undocumented population and the broader national discourse on immigration reform. In any case, Governor DeSantis' immigration plan has already ignited passionate discussions and will undoubtedly play a role in shaping the future of immigration policy, both within Florida and beyond its borders.

As the situation unfolds, it will be crucial for policymakers, advocates, and the public to engage in constructive dialogue and seek a balanced approach that addresses the concerns of all stakeholders, while upholding the values of justice, fairness, and respect for human rights that are integral to the American experience.

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