- A Florida GOP lawmaker said the anti-immigration law he backed was supposed to tell new immigrants to “stay out.”
- But now migrant families are fleeing the state, and it’s a “big problem” for farmers and tourism, Rep. Rick Roth said.
- Videos shared on Twitter showed Roth and other GOP lawmakers urging people to convince migrants to stay.
A Florida GOP lawmaker said he still supports a strict anti-immigration law he backed earlier this year — but now fears the new legislation could be causing a “major problem” as migrants flee the state.
“The bill has a lot of negative consequences that I’m trying to mitigate,” Florida Rep. Rick Roth told Insider. “The bill has a lot of positive consequences, which I believe was the main purpose of the bill, which is to keep people from moving to Florida that are undocumented.”
Roth spoke to Insider after he and fellow Republican state legislators Alina Garcia and Juan Fernandez Barquin held a meeting about the new law — FL Law SB1718, which takes effect next month — in Hialeah, Florida, on Monday morning, according to an advertisement for it shared on Twitter by activist Thomas Kennedy.
During the meeting, Roth told constituents that migrants have started moving to Georgia and other states.
“The negatives is there are families leaving Florida right now where some of them work, some of the family members are legal, and some of them are not,” he added to Insider. “But they’re all deciding that they’re not going to split up and live in two different states. So it’s going to be a major problem for the agriculture, construction, and tourism, which just about happens to be most jobs in Florida.”
Some farm workers are too scared to go to work because they’re worried about the crackdown on illegal immigration, WPTV reported. CBS News reported that undocumented immigrants, including construction workers, are leaving Florida for other states.
During Monday’s meeting, Roth called the law “more of a political bill than it is policy.”
“It does give more police state powers going forward to deal with immigration, but still this is mainly a political bill,” he said, according to The New Republic.
Garcia, meanwhile, said the bill was meant to “scare people” from traveling to Florida but added that it “really doesn’t have any teeth,” according to another video shared by Kennedy.
“We need to have immigration that is legal,” she said.
Roth told Insider that the bill came straight from Gov. Ron DeSantis and said legislators “couldn’t amend it.”
“It was take it or leave it,” Roth said. “So most people decided in the legislature that we are totally upset with the chaos coming across the southern border” and voted for it.
Roth said that after urging migrant families to stay in Florida, he still supports the bill.
“I don’t want people coming to my communities that are not going to be able to get a job and are going to be putting pressure on housing and all kinds of other services when they’re not going to be able to get a job,” he told Insider. “So the bill has a good purpose, which is, ‘Stay away from Florida.'”
Garcia and Fernandez Barquin did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
DeSantis carried out a bill signing on legislation to create a “Digital Bill of Rights” on Tuesday, but he left without taking questions.
DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said in a statement to Insider: “The Florida Legislature does not pass, nor does the governor sign, simple press releases meant to posture. We are grateful that the legislature got this bill to the governor’s desk for his signature.”
“This bill has teeth, and businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens over Floridians are putting their licenses in jeopardy,” he added. “We encourage business owners not to roll the dice and test the governor’s commitment to uphold the law.”
Andres Malave, a spokesperson for Florida’s Speaker of the Florida House, Rep Paul Renner, said the legislation was a “direct response to the failures of the Federal Government to protect our citizens.”
“Even more appalling is the concerted effort by liberal activists to gaslight the immigrant community by feeding them a heavy dose of lies by misrepresenting what is actually in the bill,” Malave said.
Update June 6, 2023: This story was updated to include comments from Ron DeSantis’ spokesperson and the spokesperson for Florida’s Speaker of the House that were sent after this article’s publication.
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