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Updated: May 3, 2023

On April 27, 2023 the Guatemalan-Maya Center along with community members and agencies gathered during a press conference to discuss proposed legislative bills HB1617 & SB1718.

To view our press conference, please click here to view our Facebook page.

To view our interview on CBS12, click here.

To view our interview on Telemundo, click here.

What’s at stake with bills HB1617 & SB1718?

We do not intend to be alarmist, but the simplest answer is: everything. Earlier this year Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his chilling anti-immigrant vision, and shortly after, the Republican-dominated state legislature devised bills HB1617 & SB1718 intended to strip immigrants in Florida of their basic human rights.

​​The new legislation will:

  • Force hospital receiving Medicaid funds to collect data on the immigration status of patients during regular hospital visits and emergency care.

  • Make transporting people without a regulated immigration status into the state of Florida a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

  • Burden employers with costly employment verification requirements.

  • Strengthen language to make it illegal to employ, hire, recruit, or refer workers who are immigrants without a regulated status for public or private employment in Florida and raises fines for violations.

  • Requires recruiters to verify a person’s employment eligibility prior to referral or recruitment and requires employers to keep E-Verify records for 5 years.

  • Prohibit funding for Community ID programs on a city and county level.

  • Bar legally issued out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to visitors, tourists, and new Floridians without a regulated immigration status.

  • Repeal a 2014 law that allowed lawyers still regulating their immigration status to practice law in Florida.

  • Requires local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement activities within their jurisdiction.

While some of the most egregious violations to human rights were diluted to perpetuate the exploitation of migrant workers, the bill still delivers devastating blows to a crumbling labor sector, a strained economy, and struggling industries such as construction, tourism, hospitality, retail, and other services which depend on almost 400,000 migrant workers.

A highly concerning provision will also require hospitals to question the migratory statuses of all patients during regular and emergency hospital visits, deterring migrant families from seeking out needed healthcare out of fear of discrimination, detention or deportation.

“In the early eighties when Dr Jean Malecki the director of the Health Dept. called me, I was a priest attending to farmworker families among them recently arrived refugee survivors from the Violencia that had taken 200,000 Guatemalan Mayan lives. The neonatal unit at Saint Mary's was overwhelmed by an inundation of newborns whose mothers had never seen a doctor. We hired an indigenous team, got a couple of vans and called ourselves El Centro Maya Guatemalteco (GMC). Dr Malecki loaned us the little doctor's house on F street and we went to work at creating a cultural change among the expectant moms. Today,(one may have to persuade a woman who is dependent on a day's wage to give the day to her health care, but) prenatal care is normative.

The rescue of the Neonatal Unit is again at risk. In a vicious electioneering stunt by enemies of the asylum applicants, Tallahassee is considering bills that will require Emergency Rooms and Hospitals to function as Border Patrol investigators and reporters.”

- Father Frank O'loughlin

The bills are expected to move quickly through the senate floor and likely passed by May 2nd.

What we’re reading:

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