Florida's new immigration law could slow hurricane recovery efforts
Workers in Florida fear stepping out to avoid deportation, threatening the progress of recovery efforts after the recent hurricane disasters.
Governor Ron DeSantis' recent immigration law is discouraging some workers from participating in Hurricane Idalia recovery efforts in Florida.
Resilience Force, a nonprofit organization, conducted verbal surveys over the summer and found that laborers were reluctant to work in the state due to deportation concerns. These laborers, part of the "resilience workforce," are primarily immigrants, many of whom are undocumented, trained to assist in disaster restoration.
During worker meetings held in their Houston and New Orleans hubs, organizers polled their teams about returning to Florida in the event of another hurricane. In every instance, over 50% of workers expressed that the risk was too significant.
Sacha Feinman, the communications director for Resilience Force, emphasized that after natural disasters, Floridians require skilled workers to repair and rebuild homes and social infrastructure. However, the new immigration law has deterred this workforce from returning to the state.
The legislation, signed by DeSantis in May, has tightened restrictions on Florida's undocumented community. It has invalidated out-of-state driver's licenses for individuals without proof of citizenship, prohibited municipalities from using state funds to issue identification cards for undocumented immigrants, and mandated most Florida companies to verify the immigration status of new hires, among other limitations.
The law also repealed a state statute that allowed some undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses to practice law in Florida.
Feinman emphasized that these workers are among the best and most experienced, and Florida is now missing out on their expertise, during a time when it is needed most. Resilience Force is urging DeSantis to overturn the legislation and restore Florida's reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants who can contribute to the state's well-being.
Some workers were still involved in Hurricane Ian's recovery efforts when the law was passed, but they have since left the state. According to Feinman, there is an insufficient supply of workers to meet the demand for climate disaster recovery, and the situation will worsen as long as the law remains in effect and more storms occur.