TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Activists, immigrants and even pastors shouted at legislators for over three hours Wednesday afternoon over what some are calling one of the strictest immigration bills in the country.
Sponsored by Senator Blaise Ingoglia, Bill SB 1718 is, what he has referred to as “the most comprehensive and strongest, state-led anti-illegal immigrant piece of legislation ever put forth.”
More specifically, the bill would increase sanctions against businesses hiring illegal aliens, ban local governments from funding identification cards for illegal aliens, and prohibit recognition of driver's licenses issued to illegal aliens from other states.
The proposal also includes measures to increase criminal penalties for human smuggling and require hospitals that receive Medicaid reimbursements to track spending on illegal aliens in emergency rooms, and repeals a 2014 law allowing illegal aliens to practice law in Florida.
Democrat senators were quick to argue that the bill would target and endanger hundreds of thousands of Floridians who would be at risk of being arrested for being caught with illegal aliens.
Republican legislators, along with Sen. Ingoglia, argued that the recent surge in illegal immigration from the Southern border has posed a massive financial burden on Florida taxpayers. In fact, according to a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies, Florida allocated around $2 billion in 2019 towards significant health and education initiatives intended for the approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants residing in the state prior to the recent increase. And that number has only continued to grow.
Following debate, over 50 testimonies were given in opposition to the bill from activist groups and everyday Florida residents who are related to or work with immigrants.
“This bill is a harmful, anti-immigrant super package that will be detrimental to immigrant communities, especially those who are still navigating our complex system,” said a member of Equality Florida.
“I find this bill to be abhorrent. I find this bill to be vile,” shouted a second-generation immigrant who had traveled from Miami to speak.
“In a truly dystopian effort, this bill attempts to categorize the act of moving to Florida as terrorism,” an activist shouted before being asked to step off the podium.
“This can quickly turn Florida into a vigilante, show-me-your-papers state,” an ACLU member warned.
“I’m tired of ‘let’s do civil debate.” I refuse to watch and do nothing as our friends are picked off one by one,” shouted a student.
“This is a very irresponsible way of legislating because this is obviously due to the governor having to go to Iowa and stand on a GOP primary debate stage,” a Miami resident said before he was asked to step away from the podium.
Sen. Ingoglia responded by explaining that the intention of this bill is not to harm or target immigrants, but rather to do something to help our borders since the federal government continues to ignore our border crisis. Despite heavy opposition, the bill passed along party lines.