Hope Stands Strong for Immigrant and Human Rights in Florida

When challenges arise, the strength of a community is truly tested. Recently, proposals for Anti-Immigration Legislation during the 2023 Florida Legislative Session have sparked a passionate response from individuals and groups who believe in inclusivity, justice, and compassion. Hope CommUnity Center (HCC) is at the forefront of this fight for immigrant and human rights. Through education, unity, and unwavering determination, we can bring positive change and create a better future for everyone.

Under Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration, there have been proposals that prioritize big corporations over the well-being of Floridians. The balance of power in the Florida Legislature is challenging, with Republicans holding a solid majority and many representatives speaking out against immigrants. As a small minority, our biggest challenge is convincing the majority to shift away from anti-immigrant ideas. Our power lies in educating the community and encouraging participation. When more people understand what is happening, we strengthen our fight against hate.

Two bills, Senate Bill 1718 (SB1718) and House Bill 1617 (HB1617), have raised concerns within the immigrant community. These bills are very similar and have serious consequences. They propose criminal penalties for transporting individuals without proper immigration status into Florida, which could affect friends, family members, and co-workers. This could affect over 700,000 US Citizens who have an undocumented family member. A simple road trip could lead to 5–15 years in jail. Furthermore, hospitals that accept Medicaid and emergency departments would be required to collect sensitive patient information, eroding trust and creating more fear among vulnerable populations. Thanks to our advocacy, patients will have the choice not to answer this question. We’re asking all US Citizens, residents, and undocumented people to choose not to answer.

These bills also aim to defund Community ID programs, making life difficult for those who rely on these IDs for everyday tasks. Additionally, this law will invalidate out-of-state driver’s licenses for immigrants, making driving in Florida risky and increasing the likelihood of racial profiling. Furthermore, a collaboration between law enforcement and immigration officers forced DNA collection, and the expansion of E-Verify further threatened the rights and privacy of immigrants. Employers with 25 employees or more will be required to use E-verify, a system rigged with errors, for all new hires. This does not apply to people already employed.

Despite the challenges we face, we refuse to be discouraged. Hope CommUnity Center and our dedicated supporters have risen to the occasion throughout this legislative session. We have made our voices heard by working with the media, contacting legislators, mobilizing in Tallahassee, and organizing our neighbors and friends. Our relentless determination has led to positive bill changes, mitigating the harmful provisions. However, our fight is far from over!

Knowledge empowers us, and understanding our rights is crucial during these difficult times. You have the right to remain silent and seek legal representation. Refrain from signing documents without understanding, and demand a valid reason for detention. Demand a judicial warrant to allow entry into your home or business.

Do not present any false documentation. Stay firm in your resolve and remain calm in adversity. Develop a family plan and support each other during these challenging times. Know your rights.

The fight for immigrant rights in Florida is far from over. Hope CommUnity Center and numerous individuals and organizations remain committed to fighting for human and immigrant laws, justice, compassion, and inclusivity. Through our collective efforts, we can break down the barriers created by the Anti-Immigration Legislation, paving the way for a fairer and more welcoming Florida. Let our voices be heard, our actions inspire, and our unity remain unwavering, for we all hold the power to shape our future.