republican debate

Florida’s new immigration policy impacts Idalia recovery efforts

  • Immigrants who assist with recovery efforts fear Florida due to new law
  • Policy pushes for harsher punishment against undocumented immigrants
  • Expert: "It is no longer worth it. I can no longer justify the risks"

MIAMI (NewsNation) — Hurricane Idalia cleanup is far from over, and to make matters more complicated, Florida’s new immigration policy could impact recovery efforts.

Two weeks ago, the Category 3 hurricane made landfall in Florida’s Big Bend region. Now, reports say the damage and economic impact from the storm could cost between $12 and $20 billion.

Cleanup efforts are far from over, and to make matters worse, Florida’s new immigration policy — which went into effect July 1 — could impact those efforts.

The new policy pushes for harsher punishment against undocumented immigrants and their employers. The law states that anyone who is knowingly transporting immigrants is committing a third-degree felony.

“The damage done by Hurricane Idalia, we’re not going to really know what that looks like, for some time. But what I can tell you is that there is not nearly as much supply in terms of the workforce that normally is available to do this work,” Sacha Feinman said.

Feinman, the communications director for Resilience Force — a national initiative transforming America’s response to disasters — said the nonprofit surveyed more than a thousand members of its workforce, asking if they’d be willing to go back to Florida after another major storm. More than 50% responded “no.”

“It is no longer worth it. I can no longer justify the risks to myself and my family,” Feinman said. “I will not be going back to Florida to work this season.”

Businesses in Florida with more than 25 staffers are now required to use E-Verify, a federal system that determines whether employees can legally work in the U.S.

“So, that’s created a chilling effect where both undocumented people and workers who have assisted in essential relief efforts after extreme weather events and hurricanes are afraid to come into the state to perform that work that they have historically done,” Thomas Kenny with the Florida Immigrant Coalition said.

Kennedy said Florida’s sweeping immigration policy stretches far beyond the Sunshine State.

“It’s going to take years and it’s going to take a lot of hard work,” Kennedy said. “It’s going to take a lot of resources and we’re really handicapping ourselves.”

Granted, every storm and the cleanup that follows is different. For example, people and businesses are still rebuilding from Hurricane Ian, which hit last fall.

But when there’s a hurdle to jump over, such as not having additional personnel, recovery efforts could take longer.

NewsNation reached out to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office for comment and has not yet received a response.


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