Labor shortages reported in Florida as strict immigration law takes effect

Florida’s agricultural and construction industries are experiencing a labor shortage following the recent implementation of a strict immigration law in the state. SB 1718 took effect in Florida on July 1 and is reportedly leading migrant workers to leave.

Signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, the legislation imposes significant penalties on businesses employing undocumented workers. It reinforces the use of E-Verify and makes using false identification for employment a third-degree felony.

Business owners and workers alike say the ranks of laborers in Florida have grown noticeably thinner, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the Journal’s report, workers at several construction sites in south Florida said that a quarter to half of their teams are gone, exacerbating an already challenging labor shortage across the industry.

Business owners also indicate a scarcity of available farm workers.

Fearing the impact of the new bill back in June, a group of Florida Republican lawmakers, who were notable supporters of the immigration overhaul, had urged immigrants to stay in the state.

“This bill is 100% supposed to scare you,” Rep. Rick Roth, R-Fla., said. “I’m a farmer and the farmers are mad as hell. We are losing employees that are already starting to move to Georgia and other states. It’s urgent that you talk to all your other people and convince them that you have resources, state representatives, other people that can explain the bill to you.”

Roth also at one point said that SB 1718 was more of a “political bill.”

In another video, Rep. Alina Garcia added that SB 1718 is meant to scare people away from coming to Florida, adding that the new rules have “no teeth.”

In 2019, Florida was home to an estimated 772,000 undocumented migrants, many of whom worked in industries such as tourism, construction, retail and agriculture.

While experts warn that targeting the undocumented demographic could worsen the existing labor shortage, Gov. DeSantis has defended his legislation and the concept of legal immigration.

“You can’t build a strong economy based on illegality,” DeSantis said during a press conference.

As DeSantis competes for the presidency, he has made the construction of a border wall a focal point, pledging to fulfill an idea which garnered significant support from Republicans during Donald Trump’s presidency.

“We’re gonna stop the invasion… Yes, we are actually going to build the wall and we are going to restore the sovereignty of this country, and you can have my word on that,” DeSantis declared during a rally in New Hampshire.

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