Jacksonville immigrant community rallies against DeSantis backed anti-immigrant law
Jacksonville, FL – On June 1, over 300 members of the immigrant community in Jacksonville came together as part of a statewide day of action to oppose the signing of Senate Bill 1718, discriminatory anti-immigrant legislation that targets individuals still navigating the country's complex immigration system. Organized by Latino news and radio personalities with the help of many of their supporters, the protest showcased the community's commitment to fighting against policies that attack immigrants.
SB 1718 has faced widespread condemnation from the immigrant rights movement. This new law specifically targets individuals who are living and working in the state of Florida, on top of facing the country's draconian immigration system. Slated to go into effect on July 1, it would revoke licenses for any company with over 25 employees that hires undocumented immigrants, makes it a felony to travel into the state with any person who has an undocumented immigration status, and mandates that hospitals inquire about a patient's immigration status. It is not, however, mandatory to answer those questions – so, all Floridians regardless of immigration status should decline to answer.
The bill, which is championed by Governor DeSantis, originally contained alarming provisions that would have criminalized mixed status families and put everyday Floridians at risk of being charged with human trafficking simply for assisting individuals who have an undocumented immigration status. These extreme measures were met with widespread outrage and concern from activist groups across Florida and beyond.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of these activist groups, the bill's language was ultimately softened, mitigating some of the harshest and most damaging aspects.
The protest unfolded outside a local Latin restaurant, serving as a symbolic gathering point for the community. Attendees raised their voices in unison, chanting powerful slogans such as, “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here!” and “We came to work, not to steal!” Affirming their identity and humanity, they proclaimed, “Somos inmigrantes, no somos asesinos” (We are immigrants, not killers).
The presence of immigrants from various Latin American countries was evident throughout the demonstration, as many took a day off from work or closed their businesses to emphasize the critical role immigrant labor plays in Florida's economy. This act of sacrifice underscored the interconnectedness of immigrant communities and the profound impact they have on the economic fabric of the region.
Amidst a vibrant atmosphere of unity, people from all walks of life joined forces to amplify their voices. The protest brought together individuals who recognized immigrants' invaluable contributions to Jacksonville's economy, culture and society. It underscored that immigrants are not threats but integral members of the community, deserving of respect, dignity and fair treatment.
The community plans to hold another protest Sunday, June 11 and may continue holding regular protests in the future leading up to a large protest July 1.