Across Florida, protests are taking place to mark the beginning of an immigrant labor stoppage that is scheduled to last until at least July 3rd. Large crowds are being reported in Orlando, Tampa, and various areas in South Florida and as far away as Chicago and California. As SB 1718 goes into effect, the anger and economic concerns felt by many across the state forced Republican legislators to backpedal earlier this week. (See more about the new law in our last report.)
Despite spin from elected state officials claiming the law “has no teeth,” thousands of undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families have already fled the state, leaving job sites and agricultural fields nearly empty. The law has attracted the attention of immigrants and their families and many have organized to create a nationwide grassroots movement to protest the racially-motivated laws.
“We didn’t know each other and before you knew it we exchanged phone numbers after we decided we had to do something about SB 1718,” said one organizer who goes by Shevet Bafanifi. “We’ve been running with each other since and picking up people along the way. I took an Amtrak from Arkansas to San Antonio to help feed the caravan that traveled from San Diego to Tallahassee and next thing you know, I’m in Florida headed to a huge protest.”
Reporting on these organic protests has been a challenge and tracking their results, such as the Latino trucker boycott of the state, is hard to measure. However, the overall impacts of the combined efforts that include immigrants leaving the state are undeniable. As has been reported by residents and elected officials, Florida’s economy appears to be on the brink of a potentially devastating contraction.
The consequences of undeniable white nationalist rhetoric by conservative politicians failed to recognize the consequences of such biased legislation based on racial animus. This has led not only the immigrant community to bring attention to the issue, but Black people, white people, and organizers from various other ethnicities to show their support for the undocumented community in Florida. After months of protests, organizers continue to see support grow.
“People have joined this movement from where they’re at by writing ‘Todos Somos Florida’ on their cars,” said Bafanifi. “Many have also shown their support for HR 1511, HR 1698, and HR 2374 on their vehicles as well. This lets the immigrant community where you live know that their community supports them. I want people to show support in their own communities.”
Members of the movement have also noticed the limited support they have received from politicians in Congress, members of the media, and immigrant rights groups. Unicorn Riot reached out to the White House and to various members of Congress about these protests and have received no response. The muted response from the Biden administration against these allegedly unconstitutional laws has also been noted by organizers.
“I want every Latino to own their heritage and use it to find their voice,” said Bafanifi. “We have an obligation to each other. And while everyone has a right to worship who they want, they don’t have the right to force their beliefs on us. Religion is the backbone of so much oppression in the United States, including this anti-immigrant fascism. We’re the backbone of this country and we’re here to show the White House and Congress we mean business.”