Earlier this month, Governor DeSantis signed into law sweeping changes to Florida’s immigration laws.
Supporters say the changes will help curb illegal immigration, while immigration advocates say it sends a message that immigrants are not welcome in Florida.
According to the National Sheriffs’ Association, illegal immigration is unsustainable from a security and economic standpoint.
Sadaf Knight, executive director of the Florida Policy Institute, explains how immigrants affect our economy and how responses to the new law could affect you.
Listen to the full conversation in the player above.
Florida Institute of Politics
Florida Institute of Politics
Sadaf Knight is the executive director of the Florida Institute of Politics.
Impact on the economy and you
Viral videos of people speaking out against Florida’s new immigration laws have raised concerns about the impact on the economy.
Based on research by the Florida Policy Institute, Knight said these new laws could cost the state $12.6 billion in GDP in one year.
She adds that consumers could feel that loss when they go to the store.
“Many goods and services you rely on every day may become more expensive or less available.”
But supporters of the new immigration laws say the law could bring relief to residents.
In a statement sent to VMFE, the Federation for American Immigration Reform said, “Illegal immigration costs Florida taxpayers over $8 billion annually, meaning that each household has a financial burden of just under a thousand dollars. Those fees come from education, legal, health and any other fees associated with supporting illegal immigrants in Florida communities.”
However, Knight said undocumented workers also put money back into the economy.
“Whether you are granted legal status or not, you still pay your taxes.” And we have an estimate from a few years ago, showing that undocumented immigrants contributed nearly $600 million a year to state and local taxes in Florida.
She adds that Florida’s new immigration laws will have a significant impact on the economy because it creates a culture of fear, which could affect whether people continue to move to the state to work.
“We’re already seeing on social media and even in news reports, people are just choosing to walk away and not come to work because there’s a culture of fear and a chilling effect,” Knight said. “Regardless of what the bill specifically says, there are broader implications for how people feel.”
According to the Florida Institute of Politics, more than one in five residents in the state are immigrants.
Knight said that represents 21 percent of the state’s population of 4.3 million people.
“And in Central Florida we have a significant immigrant population, which is about 15 percent of the population. And in some counties it’s much higher. For example, in Orange County, it’s 22 percent of the population.”
She adds that in Florida, the top five countries from which immigrants come are Cuba, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico and Jamaica.
“We actually have the second largest proportion of black immigrants in the United States. New York is the state that has the largest number.”
When you look at the makeup of Florida’s economy, Knight said there is a significant presence of immigrants in key industries.
She points to the COVID-19 pandemic where more than one in four frontline workers in Florida were immigrants.
“They’re in sectors like health care, child care, social services and transit, and all different different industries on the front lines.”
She adds that the country also relies on 150,000 to 200,000 migrants and seasonal farmers annually.
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