MIAMI — After spending years working at an orchid nursery in Homestead, a city and major agricultural area south of Miami, a Salvadoran worker said she and her family of four are considering leaving.

Since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a sweeping immigration bill into law last week, many like her are weighing their options.

The worker, whose name is withheld because she is concerned about the repercussions to herself or her family, works outdoors in the South Florida heat planting potted orchids from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. She said she loves living in the been and that your friends and neighbors have become family.

But even though she has work authorization as an asylum seeker from El Salvador, she worries about her husband, who has no legal documentation to work.

“I would like to stay in Florida, but the employment situation is going to become very demanding,” he said.

In meetings with immigrant advocates and religious leaders and in conversations with employers, Florida farmworkers have been raising their fears and concerns about the state’s new immigration law, which takes effect in July.

Among the requirements is that businesses with more than 25 employees use a federal system known as E-Verify to determine if employees have legal permission to work in the US.

The new law will also invalidate driver’s licenses issued in other states to drivers without legal status and prohibits local governments from providing money to organizations that issue identification cards to immigrants without legal status.

It will also require hospitals in the state that accept Medicaid to include a citizenship question on the forms, which will discourage many immigrants from seeking medical care.

The law also provides $12 million for DeSantis’ immigrant resettlement program. The governor made headlines last year when he led a group of Venezuelan immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to protest federal immigration policy.

DeSantis, who is expected to announce his presidential run soon, has taken a far-right position on immigration, something that appeals to many Republican primary voters. The immigration bill was signed the day before Title 42 was lifted, a policy that has allowed the US to quickly expel migrants at the southern border for the past three years during the pandemic, but also caused an increase in people who repeatedly attempted to cross the border illegally. DeSantis has been a harsh critic of Biden and federal border policy.

‘Uncertainty breeds fear’

For a large portion of Florida’s population, the law affects their livelihoods. In Homestead, known for its plant nurseries, most workers live here year-round and work in plant production and landscaping; only a minority are seasonal workers. Many of the workers, mostly Latino, do not have legal immigration status.

Some immigrant workers have he’s gone the state and many are asking questions and wondering if they should go too.

“What we have heard and seen since the signing of the law is that many of the workers are scared, afraid and wondering which way to go,” said Óscar Londoño, co-executive director of We Count!, a local organization that advocates for immigrant workers. “At the same time, we know that a growing number of employers are also concerned about this law because it will not only affect immigrant workers. It will also affect businessmen who depend on their labor.”

The Salvadoran worker at the Homestead orchid nursery, who is also a We Count! member, said she and her coworkers have already been warned that the rules will change in July. She is concerned that her work permit renewal may not arrive on time.

“Last time, it took me a year and three months to receive my work authorization, and my employers were asking me when it would arrive,” he said.

In Immokalee, a farming town known for its tomatoes and about an hour’s drive from Naples, many of the workers are temporary.

“The biggest fear they have is losing their jobs,” said Lupe Gonzalo, an organizer with a labor group, the Immokalee Workers Coalition.

DeSantis’ signing of the bill coincided with the end of the tomato season in Immokalee. This is the time of year when many workers leave for Georgia and South Carolina, where they harvest tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. Some workers usually return to Florida in August to prepare the soil for planting tomatoes, and by November most of them have returned to harvest the crop. Gonzalo said that they may not return this year.

“It is cold in many states during the winters, so people will have to look for work in other areas,” Gonzalo said. «They will have to adapt.»

Fear of what will happen in July is not just spreading among farmworkers. Some farm owners are concerned about how their businesses will run with fewer workers available.

Elvira Cepeda, a farmer in Homestead, said she was having a hard time finding farmworkers to harvest after the new law was signed. She said fearful workers have not stopped calling her about it and have told her they are contemplating leaving the state.

“The economy of South Florida here in Homestead is agriculture. Most of them that we know of are undocumented. Who will harvest? Cepeda told Telemundo News in Spanish.

One producer was optimistic that the law would not result in major changes.

Pedro Sifuentes, who came from Mexico more than 30 years ago, owns okra fields in Homestead and says none of his 120 workers have left.

“I have told them that every cloud has a silver lining,” he said of conversations he has had with farmworkers. “The government knows that everything moves here thanks to the working people and the Latinos. They strengthen the state and the government is not going to do anything to harm it.”

Several Latino Republican legislators voted in favor of the law. One of them, Sen. Ileana Garcia of Miami, was not immediately available for an interview, but she defended the legislation in a statement in March, saying it is «designed to prevent the use of illegal ID cards in Florida to prevent trafficking of people and end abuses by unscrupulous people who prey on the most vulnerable.It is amazing how far left and open borders activists will lie, hoping to instill fear in order to advance their partisan agenda.

Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Evangelical Latino Coalition and pastor of The Gathering Place in Orlando, said he and others recently held a meeting at the Mexican consulate to reassure immigrants and those who help them and provide legal advice, pastoral care and support. .

“We are having sessions in community centers and churches. There were more than 100 immigrants there and we were there for several hours answering questions about what is in the law, what is not in the law,” Salguero said.

“Uncertainty breeds fear,” Salguero said. “We ask the state Legislature to reconsider: It is our job to serve the community to the best of our ability.”