Protests Against Anti-Immigrant Laws to Continue

Protests and calls to boycott the Sunshine State continue to grow since the passage of SB1718, Florida’s anti-immigrant legislation

Recent protests and boycotts in response to anti-immigrant legislation in Florida are having lasting impacts on communities upheld by undocumented immigrants. The June 1st labor strikes coordinated by Latino organizers on TikTok made a statement not just on the seriousness of the immigration debate but by showing how much support immigrants have across racial and ethnic lines. Some weekend demonstrations have carried on for weeks in many Florida cities.

Now, bolder actions are being coordinated on social media using the hashtag #LaLuchaContinua (‘The Fight Continues’). With more time to organize and employ the virality of TikTok and Twitter, organizers expect larger crowds and more support from immigrants and their allies. This time, however, the labor strike is intended to last several days from June 30th through July 3rd.

“The protest is set to end July 3rd because we want to celebrate our Independence Day just like everyone else,” said organizer Sam Ruiz. “We’ve been celebrating freedom and liberty in this country for as long as anyone. Look, I’m not an activist or an organizer, I’m a regular citizen who wants freedom and justice for all. If those are only for a select few, then it’s not freedom nor justice.”

According to Ruiz, the protests are about more than drawing attention to the Latinophobic nature of the policies in Florida, Texas, and Kansas. They are also meant to create awareness about H.R. 1511 in the US Congress titled “Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929.” The bill intends to “provide lawful permanent resident status to certain long-term residents of the United States, including individuals who are unlawfully present.”

A protest against Florida’s anti-immigrant SB 1718 law on June 1, 2023.

“What HR1511 does is something that has been ignored by Congress,” said Ruiz. “Many of us feel like they’re not in favor of immigration reform because they can exploit it for political gain. H.R. 1511 is something that we have to spread the word about because it offers so much more than the Dignity Act. The Dignity Act enslaves immigrants for extended periods of time to extract money from the emigres who are already paying taxes.”

A review of H.R.1511 shows that it mimics a portion of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 which was supported and signed into law by former president and Republican darling, Ronald Reagan. The law provided what President Reagan referred to as “amnesty” to millions of undocumented immigrants. It offered lawful permanent residency and naturalization to various undocumented communities in the country prior to January 1st, 1982. 

Using a similar strategy to President Reagan, H.R. 1511 seeks to amend Section 249 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1259) and change its wording by striking “Entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924 or January 1, 1972” in the section header and replacing it with “Are Long Term Residents of the United States.” The bill includes a stipulation that the undocumented immigrant must have “entered the United States at least 7 years before the application date.”

4-Day Labor Strike

The most significant impact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was allowing undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before Jan 1, 1982, to apply for legal status if they paid back taxes and fines. About 3 million immigrants secured legal status under the Act after paying $185, learning to speak English, and demonstrating “good moral character.”

H.R. 1511 was introduced by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA18) and currently has 57 cosponsors, all Democrats. On March 9, 2023, the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee where it currently sits idle. The push for protesters is to get the bill moving again by spotlighting it in the coming weeks and during the end-of-month labor strike.

During the June 1st “Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes” (A Day Without Immigrants) protests, Latinos from every Latin American country were represented, including Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. They were also joined by Indigenous people, Black people, white people, and people from all over who showed up in support of undocumented immigrants. Now, as calls grow for upcoming protests, organizers expect the unifying support to expand.

The labor strikes during the busiest summer weekend of the year leading up to Independence Day celebrations could inflict more pain on Florida where the largest protests are expected to take place. With the state presumably suffering the negative economic impacts of SB 1718, the anti-immigrant law which drove thousands of migrants to leave the state, renewed calls for a labor strike beginning on June 30 are likely to trip the economy up some more.

A protest against Florida’s anti-immigrant SB 1718 law on June 1, 2023.

The latest addition to the protests that began on June 1st is a trucker convoy that started in San Diego on June 23rd and is scheduled to arrive in Tallahassee, Florida on June 30th, the first day of planned protests. Many of the organizers on social media are also planning to attend various rallies in Tampa and the State Capitol as well.

They plan to bring awareness of the pain inflicted on mixed-status families and the workers forced to leave the state due to the oppressive show-me-your-papers clause in SB 1718. Local and state police now have the authority to stop and ask anyone who may be undocumented to show them their immigration paperwork. One major issue is police often don’t know what they’re looking for and sometimes detain even documented immigrants and refer them to ICE.

Whether in the country on a work visa or not and whether ICE releases someone because of an error, life for that person is disrupted during the time they may be in custody. They could lose jobs, be separated from their families, and be left with a lingering fear of incarceration and/or deportation. And despite local and state politicians saying the law “has no teeth” and that “it was meant to scare people” as they beg migrants to stay, they aren’t convincing anyone that Florida is safe.

With attacks on Black History, the LGBTQ community, and Latinos, Florida doesn’t feel secure if you’re a marginalized community member. Whether “legal” or not, Latinos are now going to be subjected to the same racial profiling seen for years in places like Fort Bend County, Texas when current U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX22) was sheriff. The difference between Texas and Florida, however, is the latter codified the practice of profiling Latinos into law. 

Organizers have set up a petition asking Congress to support H.R. 1511. You can find it here.

Images are used with permission of the American Friends Service Committee – Florida (AFSC Florida), originally posted on Twitter.

Arturo is a writer, journalist, and publisher of The Antagonist Magazine and a regular contributor at Latino Rebels and Unicorn Riot. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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