In 2022, more than one in five Florida residents were immigrants. In that same year, immigrants in Florida were over 14% more likely than their U.S.-born neighbors to be of working age, positioning them to actively participate in the labor force and economy. And they did just that—immigrants contributed $12.0 billion in state and local taxes, punching above their weight as they made up only 26.6% of the state’s workforce.

Despite these contributions, Governor Ron DeSantis and other state leaders continue to support policies that harm immigrants, their families, and the Florida community at large. These policies also exacerbate workforce shortages, resulting in undue harm to businesses and instilling fear and uncertainty among the immigrant community.

During the last decade, some Florida leaders have advanced anti-immigrant policies, despite community pushback and legal challenges, that would negatively impact key Florida businesses and industries such as tourism. Despite these concerns, state leaders have continued to introduce and pass harmful legislation targeting immigrants, leading to detrimental rippling effects across Florida. Some recent policies include:

  • SB 168 (2019): Required every Florida county and municipality to enforce federal immigration laws.
  • SB 1808 (2022): Expanded upon SB 168 to force law enforcement agencies operating county detention centers to enter “287(g)” agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • SB 1718 (2023): Included many provisions such as changing protections for undocumented immigrants who are seeking medical care, banning non-citizens from utilizing driver’s licenses in Florida that were legally issued in another state, and criminalizing transporting immigrants across state lines.

In July 2023, the Council, on behalf of several individuals and the Farmworker Association of Florida, challenged Section 10 of SB 1718 regarding the transportation of immigrants. The provision was temporarily blocked in May 2024. While this win temporarily blocks one component of this legislation, litigation is ongoing, and the community was still dealt a blow when this bill became law in July 2023, instilling fear and building upon the growing anti-immigrant rhetoric that has caused some immigrants to leave the state altogether. Additionally, other pieces of this legislation, such as the expanded use of E-Verify, remain in effect, further hindering the growth of businesses in the state.

These types of policies—whether fully or partially implemented—cause harm to communities. They undermine the immigrant communities’ faith in local law enforcement, erode trust in systems meant to safeguard workers from poor working conditions and harassment, and contribute to chilling effects that can make routine grocery trips or accessing health care feel unsafe. They also impact businesses and their bottom line. Industries that rely on seasonal labor or are struggling to fill labor gaps were especially “dealt a huge blow.”

In 2023, the Florida Policy Institute estimated that SB 1718 could cost the state’s economy upwards of $12.6 billion in the first year alone. As the bill approaches its one-year implementation mark this July, the warning sirens from businesses, advocates, and community members alike continue to blare.

Critically, other states—taking inspiration from SB 1718 and other harmful policies passed in states like Texas—have entered a dangerous political competition to pass copycat bills that could invoke the same economic harm to their state. For example, Mississippi introduced a bill that would criminalize the transportation of undocumented migrants into the state, and Iowa passed legislation that is now being challenged in court that would criminalize the reentry of certain individuals into the state.

While these policies highlight anti-immigrant sentiments that have surfaced across the nation and are particularly heightened in states like Florida, they ignore the fact that immigrants are vital to states’ economies and local workforces. Immigrants often fill critical roles across the skills spectrum. In Florida in 2022, 36.3% of immigrants were entrepreneurs, 25.3% worked in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and comprised 44.7% of workers in agriculture.

Despite bills like SB 1718 and the harmful anti-immigrant rhetoric accompanying them, other state and local leaders, alongside community members, relentlessly push forward welcoming policies that would allow all Floridians to thrive. Bipartisan efforts to expand pathways to develop and retain the state’s foreign-trained healthcare workforce advanced this year.

Immigration and immigrants have been and will continue to be vital to Florida. As we look toward the 2025 Florida legislative session, state leaders must consider the long-term detrimental effects that these anti-immigrant bills have and will continue to have on their communities, the state, and the nation.