Florida Republicans passed a bill criminalizing the transport of undocumented people into Florida, requiring hospitals to ask about immigration status on intake forms, invalidating out of state driver’s licenses or other forms of government ID issued to undocumented people, and preventing local governments from issuing identification cards to undocumented people.
Now, after sparking backlash among thousands of immigrants (who make up a great deal of Florida’s economy), some Florida Republicans are trying to backpedal and do damage control.
On Monday, Representatives Alina Garcia, Rick Roth, and Juan Fernandez Barquin appeared at an event sponsored by Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo, also a Republican. The trio, all of whom voted to pass the anti-immigrant bill, clumsily attempted to appeal to the thousands of people their party has alienated.
“This bill is 100 percent supposed to scare you,” said Roth. “I’m a farmer, and the farmers are mad as hell. We are losing employees. They’re already starting to move to Georgia and other states. It’s urgent that you talk to all your people and convince them that you have resources, state representatives, and other people that can explain the bill to you,” he added, essentially begging Florida’s labor force to not leave the state that cares little for them.
“This is more of a political bill than it is policy. It does give more police state powers going forward to deal with immigration, but still this is mainly a political bill,” Roth concluded incoherently. It’s just politics and messaging, but also it ramps up the police state, but also it’s just all politics. OK.
“We had the best president in my life, the last 30 years, and I’m still supporting Donald Trump,” Roth continued. “I love my governor. He’s the greatest governor,” he said of Ron DeSantis, who led the charge to pass a bill stigmatizing and targeting the some 772,000 undocumented workers, students, and community members in Florida.
“I really didn’t prepare anything,” Garcia said while beginning her remarks, adding that she agreed with everything Roth said. “This is a bill basically to scare people from coming to the state of Florida, and I think it’s done its purpose.”
The pleading by Republicans who are reaping what they sowed comes after Latin American truck drivers began rallying behind calls to strike and not enter Florida, while thousands of workers and families have marched across the state protesting the bill and threatening to leave the state.
A spokesperson for Barquin provided a statement after publishing, assuring that the Florida representative does not see the bill as a mistake, or some messaging bill. “During [the] forum, some of my colleagues dismissed SB 1718 as merely a ‘scare tactic,’” Barquine says. “I, in no way, share their opinion.”
“I voted for this bill, support this bill, and applaud our Governor for making this a priority,” Barquin said.
This post has been updated.