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PRESS RELEASE: GUATEMALAN-MAYA CENTER CONDEMNS HB1617 AND SB1718

Updated: May 3, 2023

Dear supporters,


We are reaching out for your help in defending our community’s health and safety from DeSantis' anti-immigrant package. These dangerous bills will prevent our agency from assisting the community with basic needs, including but not limited to, access to health care, housing, and family reunification.

Read our press release below:


For Immediate Release: Apr 28th, 2023

Contact: Hafsa Haider, 561-817-5496, info@guatemalanmaya.org


The Guatemalan-Maya Center denounces HB 1617 & SB 1718 to stand with immigrant community members in Florida.


FLORIDA -On February 23, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an anti-immigrant legislative framework. On March 7, Senate Bill 1718 “Immigration” sponsored by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) and House Bill 1617 “Unlawful Immigration” by Rep. Kiyan Michael (R-Jacksonville) were filed. On April 24th, after weeks of advocacy. Both bills were considerably amended.


Mariana Blanco, The Guatemalan-Maya Center’s Assistant Executive Director, said

“Our biggest concern is really the fear that it is going to instill in the undocumented population to look for and receive services. Things like this restrict not just our work, but also hurt the trust of the community..You should not play with the people for your own political agenda. These are people. These are your residents. This is your workforce. This is your community and you should be protecting them”.



Father Frank O’Loughlin, The Guatemalan-Maya Center’s Executive Director, recounts

“We founded Centro Maya Guatemalteco in collaboration with the [Palm Beach County] Health Department when the healthcare of the first wave of asylum seekers from Guatemala's massacre of 200,000 Mayan villagers, produced a crisis at St. Mary's Hospital. Sick newborns—whose traumatized madres never had seen a doctor—overwhelmed the neonatal unit. We rescued the service by creating a new culture of prenatal care: driving the madres not only to their deliveries, but to essential medical appointments.


The counter to this progress is a vicious electioneering stunt by Tallahassee radicals who will require medical centers and ERs to examine the immigration status of their patients. The effect of these hateful bills is to build a Trumpian wall at the entrance to hospitals.


Please be clear that the purpose of these bills is electioneering stunting. The hostility here is not only towards people seeking asylum, but towards the administration in Washington. It is, as was the cruel flight to Martha's Vineyard, criminal abuse of immigrant victims to embarrass humane government.


Proponents of these bills are not opposed to migrant workers in their groves and vegetable fields. This year, even when a hurricane wiped out much of the citrus and a freeze killed the vegetables, the agricultural industry applied to import unprecedented numbers of immigrant

“guest workers” with employer-held visas. Their objection is not to employing immigrants in their dairies and factory farms. Their only purpose is to continue to create havoc among advocates of humane immigration law and to exploit the bigotry of their partisan base.


Will there be healthcare access for the workforce of Florida or will we welcome the inevitable tragic consequence of exclusion?


Danna Torres, The Guatemalan-Maya Center’s Clinica Maya Director, stated

“This [healthcare] provision raises significant data & privacy concerns, and subjects immigrants to discrimination, reporting, detention, and deportation. Legislation has included a clause

prohibiting the reporting of the patient’s immigration status to immigration authorities, however, in this poorly written bill, there are no safeguards explicitly prohibiting hospitals from linking the patient’s name to their immigration status, or distributing that information to non-immigration authorities.


This provision will have chilling medical consequences within the immigrant community, who will grapple between the risk of deportation, or the risk of death.


View recordings of our live stream on Instagram or Facebook.


Sonia Moreno, South Florida Membership Organizer for The Florida Immigrant Coalition, said

“Hay que tener coraje y la valentía para tener este tipo de conversaciones con ellos, y decirles que probablemente sí esta ley es aprobada en el estado de la Florida se verán obligados a continuar su futuro solos o irse a un país que no les pertenece”.






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