Central Florida immigrant community members say they fear impact of new immigration law

ORLANDO, Fla. — Central Florida immigrant community members said they’re living in fear after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off on a new immigration law this week.

The law requires businesses with at least 25 employees to use a federal system to check the immigration status of workers. It toughens criminal penalties for people who bring undocumented immigrants into Florida. And the law also requires hospitals to ask patients about their immigration status.


Advocates say the last point will keep immigrants from getting necessary medical help.

DACA recipient Silvia Ruiz said she worries this means some undocumented people won’t seek treatment. She said her undocumented father died two years ago from COVID-19 and he was afraid to go to the hospital for care.

“During this month, I can’t help but think about the week he spent in bed thinking about receiving medical attention,” Ruiz said.

Read: Gov. DeSantis signs bill to crackdown on illegal immigration in Florida

The governor’s office said the new law is the strongest anti-illegal immigration legislation in the country.

“People are going to come if they get benefits, and so what you want to do is say there’s not benefits for coming illegally,” DeSantis said.

Some at Hope Community Center believe the law is already having a chilling effect.

Read: Advocates to denounce new illegal immigration bill signed in Florida

“On the roads are people packing up their stuff, their cars, their children, everything,” Sister Ann Kendrick said.

U.S. citizen and Orlando native Salvador Rosas, who lives with undocumented immigrants, said the new law ends family road trips to relatives in Chicago.

“The fear is if we want to come back home here in Florida, we will get stopped on the border of Florida and Georgia,” Rosas said.

Watch: Gov. DeSantis signs bill to crackdown on illegal immigration in Florida

He’s not just worried that his undocumented parents could be deported; Rosas could face charges too. Under the new law, anyone knowingly transporting an undocumented immigrant into the state could face five years of jail time.

The Hope Community Center is hosting a meeting at their Hawthorne Avenue location so that immigrants can understand their rights when it comes to the bill, including that they can choose not to answer questions about their immigrant status at hospitals.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.