The effect of Florida’s new immigration law on construction and labor

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The Florida immigration law goes into effect Saturday, requiring all private employers with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify system.

Some feel this will lead to a mass exodus of our migrant population. Which in turn will lead to a shortage of workers.

Southwest Floridians just recently survived Hurricane Ian and a good number of the people doing the rebuilding are immigrants.

Some on a work visa and others do not, like Amilcar Cos and Marlon Miguel.

Cos and Miguel install drywall, painting and carpentry. They say the workload has been heavier these days.

As Florida begins to enforce its new immigration law, their friends and co-workers have left.

Miguel said that they lost 20 workers, which has suddenly slowed down reconstruction. Due to this, many job sites are left undone.

One provision of the law demand employers with 25 or more workers verifies whether everyone has the legal right to work in the United States.

Although this law doesn’t talk about penalizing workers, Florida law can’t legally deport anyone. Some people without documentation say it’s not worth the risk to stay in Florida.

Irma Bautista is a construction business employer who has noticed her work staff numbers dwindling.

“We had 45 workers. From 45, now we have 20,” Bautista said.

Bautista worries now that she’ll soon have fewer than that, which has her worried about the future of her business.

Bautista doesn’t want to get too far ahead in thinking about closing her business, just like Cos and Miguel don’t want to think about having to leave Florida.

Southwest Florida will still be rebuilt, but the process may be slower.

The immigrant workers will wait and see what will happen starting Saturday.

But two workers WINK News spoke to said they’ve already had about 10 people they know leave.

Mario Martinez, born and raised in Immokalee, agrees people who aren’t legally permitted to be here shouldn’t be here.

“Before the law takes, in effect, they’re afraid they’re actually leaving before, you know, the law actually took effect they were already leaving,” he said.

But he believes the sweeping legislation is too aggressive.

From slashing social services to making it more difficult to go to the hospital, to demanding every employer who has more than 25 employees verify each one has the legal right to work in the U.S.

“What’s the problem with only singling out the Latino population? The Mexicans think that’s wrong,” Martinez said.

For the most part, the employers and undocumented workers WINK News spoke to said it’s too early to say whether the law will force people out of Florida and create a worker shortage which could lead to price increases for everyone else.

But most people in the community think that is what will happen.

And even the ones that don’t think that will happen, do believe enforcing the law won’t matter because fear of the unknown will win out.

“Losing friends and friends, that, that I’ve known that they they’re leaving somewhere else where, which I doubt I’ll see him again,” Martinez said.

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