Immigrants assert their humanity as new law fuels anxiety around deportation

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Hundreds of protesters rallied in Tampa, Bradenton, and other Florida cities today in opposition to Florida’s new immigration law. Many fear the law will make criminals out of Tampa residents as they strive to provide for their families while on their path to citizenship.

“¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!”

That is the voice of Democratic State Representative Susan Valdes. She is a first-generation US citizen born to Cuban immigrants, and she grew up in the Bronx before resettling in Florida. She said that other states with similar laws are opting to not enforce it.

“Depending on the implementation of this law, it’s going to be problematic for families because so long as you have some sort of documentation that you are here that’s not one of those licenses, which is also problematic, because the reciprocity is now in question if you will, from one state’s driver license to another within the United States.”

Valdes said the result may be instances where people could be charged with a crime that they don’t deserve, even if they have all their ducks in a row. Nancy Salegio was born in Chicago but has lived in Tampa for 45 years. Her parents are US Citizens, but they both immigrated without documentation prior to earning their citizenship. But she’s now concerned that driving relatives in and out of the state could result in a felony charge.

“I’m going to get a felony for that? Does that make any sense? My parents pay taxes for 25 years.”

According to the American Community Survey, immigrants pay nearly half a trillion dollars in taxes. About 15.4% of the total tax revenues governments received from U.S. residents came from immigrant households, while they only made up 14.8% of all U.S. households. Salegio says immigrants are essential to the Florida economy.

 “Our economy depends on the immigrants, of course. Without us who is going to build your home? Without us, who is going to do your crops? Everybody is going to pay more money for crops. Houses are not being built. Nobody is going to go eat at the restaurants. It affects everybody. Not only the immigrant people. It affects everybody. It’s a domino effect, and that’s what he doesn’t see.”

Under the new law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, hospitals are required to ask patients about immigration status, and businesses with 25 or more employees must use the federal E-Verify system. In addition, the state has $12 million available to fund the transport of migrants lacking legal status to other states.

Tampa protest videos and photos:

Bradenton protest videos and photos, courtesy John D.: