Hope CommUnity Center’s Executive Director Speaks Against Bill SB1718

Hope CommUnity Center’s Executive Director, Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet, recently made headlines when he traveled to Tallahassee to deliver a statement on his views towards proposed bill SB1718, put forth by Governor DeSantis. The bill, if passed, would impact the entire community, including Hope’s staff members and mixed-status families participating in these programs.

During the hearing, Sousa-Lazaballet spoke passionately against the bill, sharing his story as an undocumented immigrant for 15 years and the hardships immigrants face today. He argued that the bill seeks to criminalize the God-given right to love freely and would make him a felon for giving a ride to his loved ones. He also highlighted the bill’s potential economic impact, as mandatory E-verify would destroy the agricultural economy and create unnecessary hardships for small businesses.

The bill SB1718 would also have a devastating impact on farmworkers and their families. An estimated 42% of farmworkers in Florida are undocumented, and the bill’s mandatory E-verify provision would require employers to check the immigration status of their workers, putting them at risk of losing their jobs and potentially being deported.

The bill proposes requiring hospitals to collect immigration status data on undocumented patients, forcing doctors and nurses to renege on their promise not to cause harm, resulting in undocumented immigrants dying at home for fear of seeking help. The bill would also open the floodgates for potential racial profiling, putting immigrants at risk of being denied constitutional protections.

Additionally, Governor DeSantis anti-immigrant agenda would impact the labor shortages in Florida even further by revoking in-state tuition for undocumented youth. Many young people studying to be nurses, psychologists, or mental health counselors would be unable to afford college if the bill passes, as they are either undocumented or have DACA, which may be discontinued soon. This would exacerbate the lack of access to mental health services, which was identified as the number one health issue in the last community health assessment.

Moreover, the bill’s provisions would also put mixed-status families at risk of criminal penalties for driving their loved ones to school or the doctor, further exacerbating the fear and anxiety already faced by immigrants in the current political climate.

Sousa-Lazaballet’s comments against SB1718 highlighted the urgent need to vote against this bill. The bill’s impact would affect everyone in the community, including staff members, mixed-status families, farmworkers, mental health professionals, and undocumented immigrants. We urged the committee to consider the consequences of this bill and vote against it. Immigrants are not the problem; they are the solution.

At Hope CommUnity Center, we stand in solidarity with all immigrants and believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We applaud Felipe’s bravery in speaking against this harmful bill and encouraging others to follow his example. It is up to all of us to create a welcoming and inclusive community for all.

You can watch Felipe’s intervention here