Updated: May 24
We know these are difficult times for many marginalized groups in Florida. As we continue to see attacks on human rights and our freedoms, it is imperative for agencies to keep communities properly informed with correct and updated information to avoid inciting more fear into already fearful communities.
Much of the headlines circulating through the news and other media channels accurately depict a grim picture for Florida, and have brought to light the hidden dangers lurking in this bill. It is with this in mind we feel called to provide organizations with guidance on frequently asked questions regarding SB1718, and feedback we are receiving from impacted communities.
With that said, we recently hosted a SB1718 community information session in partnership with the ACLU and would like to share some of the Q&A's collected. You can view the live recording of this session here.
***Please note immigration specific questions such as case status, qualifications, or approval/rejections must be answered by a qualified attorney.
• Will this bill impact my residency, asylum, or immigration application? NO. This bill itself does not contain language that would indicate any changes to immigration applications or procedures.
• Can I go to the hospital? YES. Hospitals are obligated to provide healthcare to everyone regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay. You can continue to visit hospitals for treatments, emergency care, and/or prenatal/maternity care. SB1718 ONLY requires hospitals to ask all patients their immigration status as part of their registration process. Patients ARE NOT required to answer this question or reveal their immigration status. Hospitals CANNOT deny healthcare if a patient refuses to answer. Under SB1718, hospitals are only allowed to report the total number of patients seen who do not have regulated immigration statuses or are undocumented. They cannot report a patient's individual immigration status. If they do, the hospital would be in violation of HIPPA laws and a their code of ethics. We want to be very clear: ALL PEOPLE CAN CONTINUE TO ACCESS HOSPITAL CARE REGARDLESS OF IMMIGRATION STATUS.
• Will I be arrested if I leave the state of Florida? DEPENDS. Florida has not and will not issue licenses to undocumented residents. Meaning, anyone who is undocumented and driving without a license whether entering or exiting Florida is subject to arrest for driving without a license. This risk has always existed.
Second, SB1718 will now invalidate out-of-state licenses of undocumented people. Before SB1718, undocumented people could use their out-of-state licenses as a form of identification. Starting July 1, 2023, if an undocumented person with an out-of-state license is pulled over by Florida law enforcement, this individual is at risk of having their out-of-state license confiscated and subject to arrest.
Lastly, SB1718 also introduced criminal penalties for all people regardless of immigration status who cross state lines INTO Florida with an undocumented person who has not been inspected by a government agency. This means a U.S. citizen can be subject to arrest for transporting known undocumented individuals who have not been inspected by a government agency into Florida.
Advocacy groups like the ACLU are currently demanding the state to bring greater clarity on this provision, and are arguing whether this provision is in violation of federal laws.
While organizations and advocacy groups continue to challenge SB1718, we recommend undocumented residents avoid crossing state lines into Florida. If leaving the state of Florida, we advice people who are undocumented use extreme caution to avoid interaction with law enforcement.
• I want to flee Florida because of the bill. Do you recommend we leave? Or should we stay in Florida? The decision to flee or stay is a personal one. Families must choose based on their own best interest. For those who choose to stay, there are organizations still fighting to dissolve this bill, and because of its ambiguity and vague language, there is uncertainty on how the state will be able to enforce some of the provisions and may face challenges under federal law. For those who choose to flee, we recommend families and individuals research the state to ensure it is safe for undocumented people. The Guatemalan-Maya Center is gathering information on immigrant-friendly states and available resources so families who flee can seek out help when arriving.
Ultimately, being undocumented in Florida and the EE.UU. is always a risk, so it is critical undocumented residents continue to exercise caution at all times.
• I am an undocumented resident of Florida. What will happen if I am arrested? Sadly, being arrested as an undocumented resident in Florida always presents the risk of detention and deportation. Each arrest is treated differently depending on the reason for the arrest, the person making the arrest, and location of arrest. So it's hard to say what will happen. We recommend undocumented residents protect themselves by minimizing interaction with law enforcement, and knowing their rights should they come in contact with law enforcement. Remember, undocumented residents have rights during arrests. Please click here to visit our Know Your Rights post for more information.
• Can my children still attend school after July 1st? YES. This bill DOES NOT impact a child's right to receive education in the state of Florida. As long as parents or guardians meet the school district's requirements, child(ren) can register or remain enrolled in school. If a parent or guardian feels they are being targeted/discriminated by school staff because of the child's immigration status, please contact the Guatemalan-Maya Center immediately.
• Is my Community ID still valid? YES. Community ID's will remain available and active in Palm Beach County. SB1718 will only restrict cities or counties from funding their respective Community ID program. However, the Community ID program can and will continue to receive funding through private entities, private donors, and available grants.
Please follow us on Facebook and Instagram for information on upcoming SB1718 information sessions and other community events. If you would like us to host an information session for your organization, please contact us.