LULAC holds “Know your rights” town hall about new immigration law

From left, Jorge Velasquez, Suzy Lopez, Rocky Brancato, and Alison Foley-Rothrock By: Josh Holton (6/30/23)

The League of United Latin American Citizens held a town hall meeting yesterday in Ybor City to help Floridians know their rights and become more vigilant In the wake of SB1718, a new immigration law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis that will make it a felony to bring undocumented people across state lines, and will require employers to use E Verify to check immigration status if they have more than 25 or more employees.

Jorge Velasquez is the Program and Partnership Manager for Farmworkers Services with Beth-El Farmworker Ministry. He said that even if courts eventually find the new law unconstitutional, the short-term impact on families will be serious.

“We’re going to be seeing more separation of family- family separation, is going to be,  because if the family one of the members are non-citizen, any data for some reason that person is detained, there’s going to be deportation. All the different protocols that follows up to that and the family the children are going to be affected. Mom is going to be affected by not having the father and the father figure in the family. All this is going to be created some other layer of worry for the family and for the community.”

Velasquez says that a proposal to end birthright citizenship by presidential hopeful DeSantis would also be unconstitutional.

“So basically that is the constitutional right. They’re going to be born in this country, they’re going to be automatically American citizen. And that’s something that he cannot come up with, allowing them to come taking their citizenship from these children that are going to be born here. So the community is going to be starting protesting- is going to be against all this. And this definitely, he cannot change this out of the Constitution that we already established.”

On Facebook Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said quote, “We do not target individuals based on their immigration status – that’s the authority of federal agencies” Hillsborough County State Attorney Suzy Lopez said her office primarily deals with victims or witnesses involved in a criminal investigation, and not once has she ever brought up immigration status in such a conversation.

“Because I want victims and witnesses of crimes to know that we stand up for them no matter what their status is.”

Many immigrants are concerned that being pulled over for driving while brown or black could lead to other minor charges emerging, such as driving with a vehicle registration suspended due to the inability to pay fees. Lopez said the Clerk of Court has a program called On the Road Again that could help with that part.

“If they meet certain criteria that are laid out, which a lot of people do, if their license is suspended for financial reasons, not child support financial, but court fines and fees, (not a drug suspension, not a DUI suspension or child support, but just money.) They can go and go before a judge and -we had this I believe it was in late April of this year- and they got their licenses back.”

Alison Foley-Rothrock is an attorney with Foley Immigration Law, and said the law will likely be challenged based on the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th amendment of the US constitution, which prevents a state from treating citizens of other states in a discriminatory manner.

“It absolutely does apply to everyone. And one of the main things that the Supreme Court has said repeatedly, as far as states trying to enforce or overstep when it comes to immigration law is that one, it’s not your place. And two, it causes problems with interstate relationships, which, like you said, that’s part of the full faith and credit. The Constitution as a whole is that we’re a federal government, and immigration law, especially as a federal issue.”

As such, she says the laws ultimately will fail anyway.

“Anyone who has studied these issues knows very well that these laws are going to get challenged in the courts, and they’re probably ultimately going to fail. But in the meantime, they are engendering fear in a population that those who are writing these laws want to control and silence and scare away.”

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