Pensacola Group concerned about Florida immigration law

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A Florida law that goes into effect this summer is causing panic among Pensacola’s immigrant community as many families attempt to leave the state.

Florida’s immigration bill, SB1718, imposes some of the toughest penalties and restrictions in the country. This drives immigrants to leave now for fear of being deported.

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“They are honorable, wonderful, wonderful people,” said Henry Tice.

A group of people brought their concerns to the city council on Thursday evening, even though there is little the council can do.

The new law will invalidate out-of-state IDs and Florida-based agencies will not be able to issue new ones, including a driver’s license.

Tice, the general manager of North Florida Auto Brokers, said he speaks Spanish and most of his customers are Hispanic.

“Last week I had four of our customers come in and say would you give us our titles so we can title our cars in Alabama,” Tice said. “We’re moving to Alabama… One of them said I don’t know why people hate us. All we want to do is do the work the Americans don’t want to do.

Chandra Smiley, CEO of Community Health Northwest Florida, said they provide primary care to anyone who comes in, including immigrant families. She’s worried about people postponing important health appointments even though they haven’t been mandated to gather information and are functioning normally.

“We have prenatal patients asking to be induced before July 1 because they are worried that after July 1, if they have a baby in a hospital setting, the baby will be taken away and they will be deported,” Smiley said.

Local realtor Paola Chapman said several families put their homes up for sale this week and are moving out of Florida. She said even documented immigrants don’t feel safe.

“They’re already leaving,” Chapman said. “And they’re going to keep leaving this state, which will cost us billions of dollars because they’re taxpayers.”

The new law will also require employers to verify the immigration status of their workers using a federal database known as E-Verify. Those who fail to comply will be fined $1,000 per day until they provide proof that their workers are legal citizens.

Opponents of the law say it will have a devastating effect on the agriculture and construction industries in the Sunshine State.

The law comes into force on July 1.


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