Florida’s Recent Immigration Law Could Have Stark Impacts for Families and the State’s Economy

In May 2023,  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill (SB) 1718 into law. Set to take effect on July 1, 2023, the legislation makes sweeping changes to the state’s immigration policies in response to anticipated growth in immigration activity at the border following the end of Title 42 restrictions on border entry that were implemented during the COVID pandemic. Among other actions, the law requires hospitals to collect information on immigration status, creates penalties for hiring undocumented immigrants, expands employment verification screening requirements to all employers with 25 or more employees, invalidates out-of-state drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants, establishes criminal penalties for transporting undocumented immigrants into the state, increases funding to relocate or bus migrants to other parts of the U.S., and expands the authority of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to carry out immigration enforcement.

These changes could have far-reaching health and other impacts on immigrant families, beyond the undocumented immigrants it targets. Overall, there are roughly 1.8 million noncitizen immigrants in Florida, including both lawfully present and undocumented immigrants, who make up over 8% of the state’s population (Figure 1). A larger number of Florida residents live in immigrant families, which often include people of mixed immigration statuses, including U.S. born children.

The changes will likely contribute to increased fears among immigrant families, which may negatively impact their daily lives, physical health, and mental well-being. The combination of increased fears and new requirements for hospitals to collect information on immigration status will likely lead families to avoid seeking health care for themselves and their children, who may include U.S.-born citizens, which may lead to negative impacts on health. Given these types of concerns, the American Medical Association suggests avoiding explicit documentation of immigration status of patients and their family members in a health record.

The law also will likely have implications for the state’s economy and workforce, with some reports of impacts even prior to it taking effect. Local food service businesses in the state have reported losing not only long-time employees as a result of the new law, but also customers who are now afraid of going to public places. Agriculture and construction industries have also taken a hit, with reports of abandoned construction sites in the state following the passage of SB 1718. There have also been reports of truckers threatening to boycott Florida.

These impacts may continue to grow given the significant role immigrants play in Florida’s workforce, particularly in certain industries. Almost three quarters of nonelderly noncitizen immigrants work, similar to the share of their citizen counterparts. Noncitizen immigrants make up 11% of the state’s overall nonelderly adult workforce, but they make up higher shares of workers in certain industries, accounting for almost four in ten (37%) of the state’s agricultural workers and almost a quarter (23%) of its construction workers, along with over one in ten of service (14%) and transportation (14%) workers. The impacts of lost workers in these industries may have larger ripple effects through the state’s economy and beyond.

Beyond Florida, the Texas state House recently passed a bill currently being considered by the Senate that would create a specialized immigration enforcement unit in the state’s border counties, which include higher shares of Hispanic and noncitizen residents and have higher uninsured rates and a more limited supply of certain health care providers than non-border counties. At the federal level, the Secure the Border Act of 2023, which would limit eligibility for asylum, require employment verification, and resume construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, was recently passed by the House, but has no clear path through the Senate. At a time when immigration continues to be a contentious topic at both the state and federal levels, it will be important to assess and consider the long-term economic and health consequences of these types of policy changes given the role immigrants play as part of the country’s population and its workforce.

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