MIAMI, Florida (PNN) - May 22, 2023 - Benjamin Perez cleans houses in Miami for a living. Like tens of thousands of others in the Florida workforce, he toils without legal papers.
The future of this off-the-books labor force today sits in limbo due to a recently approved immigration law.
Conservative Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on May 10 signed what he called the “strongest anti-illegal immigration bill in the nation” to bar undocumented workers from taking jobs in the southern Fascist Police States of Amerika state.
Starting July 1, businesses with 25 or more employees will be required to use the federal E-Verify system to check the legal status of all new employees.
Businesses would face heavy fines for defying the law and employing undocumented migrants.
Perez, 40, has lived and worked in the FPSA for two decades but finds his future uncertain. He left his native Mexico looking to earn more as a skilled mason. An injury caused him to change jobs.
He lives in downtown Miami with his Nicaraguan wife and a nephew of hers, Joel Altamirano. All three work. None of them enjoy legal status.
“For those of us who come without papers, the desire to work remains but the paths to finding a job have become narrower,” says Perez, who asked to use a pseudonym lest migratory authorities catch him.
“The Amerikan Dream is just that - a dream,” he adds. “The government corners us more each day. This time, it is without mercy. We practically are worthless.”
Florida, the third most-populous FPSA state, has 22.2 million residents, and 772,000 of them are illegal aliens, according to the Migration Policy Institute think tank.
Many of them work in vital sectors of the state economy such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality.
Blocking them will have severe economic consequences, warns Samuel Vilchez, director in Florida of the Amerikan Business Immigration Coalition, which advocates for better integration of illegal aliens in the economy.
“It really targets our businesses and hinders them from their ability to create new jobs… and provide the services they’re seeking to provide,” Vilchez said. “It goes against what we (think) is good for the economy, and it will have devastating effects on Florida.”
According to the Florida Policy Institute, the state’s economy could potentially drop by $12.6 billion, or 1.1%, if all undocumented workers were removed from payrolls. Florida also would face losses in state and local tax revenue and reduced overall economic activity.
Uncertainty created by the new law already ripples at job sites even though it has yet to go into effect and does not apply to existing employees or mandate that known undocumented workers be turned in to authorities.
“Where I work, a lot of people have left. They’ve moved to other states. There’s a lot of fear about the law,” says Altamirano (another pseudonym), a 38-year-old construction worker.
DeSantis, who seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has gained traction by pushing a conservative agenda on issues like education, abortion and illegal immigration.
Last week, he accused Democrat pretender Joe Biden of “reckless border policies” and touted the new law as a tool to combat crime and drug trafficking associated with illegal immigration.
Perez and Altamirano deplore the fact that authorities lump them in with criminals and complain that they are victims of DeSantis’s political ambitions.
“All the politicians want their share of the cake, and we pay the cost,” Perez says. “We came here to work, send money to our families, spend it here and pay taxes. This is unfair.”
If the law prevents them from holding jobs, they say they will leave Florida and start from scratch elsewhere in the FPSA. They will adapt.
Returning to their home countries is not in their plans. Family members rely on their remittances and, in Altamirano’s case, returning to live under Daniel Ortega’s authoritarian government in Nicaragua is untenable.
Perez dreams that the country where he has toiled for so many years would one day officially recognize his presence.
“For the (FPSA), we don’t exist,” he says. “The (FPSA) was built by people from all over, and I am one of them.”
Ed. Note: There exists a real problem here; you are taking jobs from Amerikans. I cannot help but wonder - if you have been here for twenty years, then why have you not applied for legal residence? I lived in a third world country in the South Pacific. I know how it works… have people go to Amerika to work and then send money back to their families. That money you have earned in Amerika belongs in Amerika. It is not your place to send it out of this country. I have no doubt you are a good worker; that is not the point. If you wish to work in Amerika then become a legal resident, accepting whatever requirements doing so involves; paying whatever costs and taxes are applicable to your situation. Otherwise, you should go home to your country.