Editorial: Florida’s anti-immigrant bill continues DeSantis’ campaign of cruelty

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers a speech at a lectern.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown speaking at a school in Doral, Fla., in 2021, is pushing a state bill that would impose the most draconian anti-immigrant policies in the nation.
(Associated Press)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to think that attacking LGBTQ people and undocumented immigrants is the key to winning the White House.

Although he hasn’t announced his intention to run for president in 2024, it’s presumed that DeSantis’ odious political antics in recent months have been calculated to position himself as a candidate who can win over a Republican base that prefers bullies to thoughtful leaders.

DeSantis backed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, restricting classroom discussion about gender or sexual orientation. He also signed legislation banning transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ scholastic sports. His latest act as a tyrant-in-training is to push a bill in Florida that would impose the most draconian anti-immigrant policies in the nation.


The Florida governor threatened to refuse to extradite former President Trump to New York, showing contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law.

April 1, 2023

Florida’s Senate Bill 1718 is much worse than even Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 in 2010, which turned every police officer in that state into an immigration agent. The wide-ranging assault would make it a felony for anyone to give someone they know or should “reasonably” know to be an undocumented immigrant a ride, a job or shelter, punishable by up to five years in prison — and up to 15 years if the immigrant is a minor.

In addition, the bill would ban out-of-state tuition waivers at colleges and universities for undocumented students; invalidate out-of-state licenses given to undocumented immigrants, such as those issued by California; prevent undocumented immigrants from becoming attorneys; require hospitals to collect data about the immigration status of patients and the costs they incur; and require that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The bill would also make it a felony for someone to use false identification to obtain a job and punish employers who don’t use the federal E-verify program to check immigrants’ documents.

Such changes would have a chilling effect on immigrant communities in Florida and turn good Samaritans or even family members into criminals. Clergy members who minister to undocumented immigrants would be forced to choose between helping those in need and their concern about potential criminal penalties. People who employ undocumented gardeners, nannies or housekeepers would have to fire them or face criminal charges.

Republicans have begun the wasteful process of gathering evidence to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. It’s a blatant effort to score political points, rather than develop better border policy.

March 5, 2023

Immigrants and immigrant advocacy organizations worry that the bill is so vague it could apply to mixed-status households, meaning U.S.-born children couldn’t give their undocumented parents a ride or allow them to stay overnight. And with a Republican supermajority in both houses of the Florida Legislature, the bill is likely to pass.

DeSantis said the crackdown is necessary “to protect” Florida residents from what he claims are President Biden’s open-border policies. That’s ridiculous. Of the 4.5 million immigrants in Florida, slightly more than 900,000 are undocumented. And they pay taxes — about $1.6 billion a year, according to the American Immigration Council.

Furthermore, the border is not open, and certainly not friendly to immigrants. Biden has continued and expanded the Trump-era policies of expelling migrants to Mexico or deporting them to their home countries, partly due to court challenges and pressure from Republicans.


The U.S.-Mexico border is a complex region not easily reduced to sound bites that sometimes turn out to be just myths — or convenient lies.

Dec. 28, 2022

Florida legislators eager to climb aboard the DeSantis hate train may laud him as a bold visionary, but this tired political ploy is just as likely to come back to bite them. That’s what happened more than a quarter-century ago after California Gov. Pete Wilson and the state Republican Party supported the rabidly anti-immigrant Proposition 187, which would have barred undocumented immigrants from receiving healthcare, public education and other services. The measure was declared unconstitutional and solidified Democratic control in the state.

Today California legislators recognize the valuable economic contributions made by residents who are immigrants, including the more than 2 million who are undocumented. For example, lawmakers in Sacramento are currently considering a bill that would create a program to offer unemployment benefits to about 1.6 million undocumented workers in California who work in essential jobs and pay taxes.

Using human beings as political pawns is, unfortunately, nothing new to DeSantis. Last year, he transported asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard, luring them with false promises. Demonizing hundreds of thousands of his own residents doesn’t make DeSantis look presidential, but like a bully.