ORLANDO, Fla. – A coalition of advocates and community organizations that defend immigrant rights voiced their disappointment Thursday against District 25 State Rep. Carolina Amesty, who voted in favor of Florida’s newest undocumented immigration policy.
“She had the nerve to betray us,” said Felipe Sousa, director of Hope Community Center. “She voted against the rights of immigrants, against the human rights of so many people.”
Amesty, the daughter of Venezuelan immigrants, is among the 83 Florida legislators who supported Senate Bill 1718, which was signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in May.
The law, which goes into effect July 1, aims to crack down on illegal immigration by stepping up requirements on businesses to check the immigration status of workers, punish people who bring immigrants without permanent legal status into Florida and collect data about whether hospital patients are in the country legally.
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In response to the law, about 200 people came together to protest in front of Amesty’s district office in Orlando along Conroy Windermere Road Thursday. It was also a call to action to ask businesses to close and allow their workers to be part of the movement.
“Today we are proud to say that a lot of business owners that support their workers who are against this bill did close down in solidarity,” said Ana Maria Hernandez, field director of Florida Immigrant Coalition.
One of those business owners runs a local crane company. Several of its workers lined up their cranes along the street in support of the immigrant community.
“We as immigrants deserve justice and immigrants are not the problem,” crane worker Ahtziry Barrera said. “We’re here today united as one. What we as people are facing is unfair.”
The policy also requires private employers with 25 or more workers to use the federal E-Verify system to determine a new employee’s employment eligibility. Public agencies are also required to use that same system and hospitals that accept Medicaid will have to ask patients about their citizenship.
“We aim to educate constituents to not vote for these people and vote them into power again,” Hernandez said.
Following the protest, several small groups went out to canvass in residential districts to let people know about the potential impact the law could have on the community.
“The purpose of this is to let all of our neighbors and community know that our legislators are voting and making laws and passing laws that are against our community,” Hernandez said.
Another protest is planned for July 1. Immigration advocates expect several businesses to close then in solidarity as well.
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