TAMPA — Victoria Marin protested under the scorching Tampa sun again Friday, wearing a blue hat, jeans and a dark gray long-sleeve shirt that reads “Mi Familia Vota.” She works for the organization by that name, encouraging and helping Latino voters to go to the polls. She stood under a tent along the side of Dale Mabry Highway near Columbus Street, as she said she’s done at previous protests of immigration politics in Florida.
But there’s one problem: Marin can’t vote. She said she came to the United States from Venezuela seven years ago and is currently in the asylum process for immigrants without legal status. And as of Saturday, when SB 1718 takes effect as law, she will lose her job with Mi Familia Vota.
The new law cracks down on the ability of those who lack proper legal documents to work and live in Florida. The law’s most notable provisions include:
- Making it a third-degree felony charge for someone who “knowingly and willfully” transports a person without legal status into the state.
- Mandating that hospitals that accept Medicaid must ask about a patient’s immigration status when the patient fills out an intake form.
- Requiring private businesses with 25 or more employees to use E-Verify, the online federal system run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that checks the immigration status of workers.
- Invalidating driver’s licenses issued by other states to people unable to prove lawful residency in the country.
- Prohibiting local governments from offering IDs to those living in the U.S. without legal permanent status.
Marin said while the new law concerns her, she and others plan to continue protesting. While some without legal status are considering leaving Florida, Marin is not, for now. She pointed to the crowd and said they aren’t demoralized. It’s important to her, she said, to prove immigrants are not criminals.
“We have to demonstrate that immigrants are an important part of the community in Florida,” Marin said.
Marin was one of a few dozen people protesting in Tampa in the hours before the bill becomes law. The street corner was lined with Mexican, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan, El Salvadoran, Honduran, Columbian and American flags. Passing cars blared their horns in support. One woman sat in the bed of a passing pickup truck holding both Mexican and American flags. Others on the street corner held up signs criticizing the new law and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
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Another protestor, Nancy Salegio, said she wasn’t fearful about how the new state law would affect her job because she is an American citizen. Still, she said she had attended other demonstrations opposing the law and plans to continue protesting.
“This is my people, this is my blood,” Salegio said.
Her father came to the United States from El Salvador and her mother from Mexico — both without proper legal paperwork — and Salegio was born in America. She wore a headband that said El Salvador, along with an image of that country’s flag, as she used a megaphone to chant with the crowd in English and Spanish.
Salegio said this new law affects everyone as some immigrants leave the state, leaving jobs unfilled.
“We come to work, and we get the job done,” Salegio said to the crowd. “It hurts, what they are doing is inhumane.”
Other speakers included Pastor Felipe Diaz of Tampa Para Cristo church. He spoke to the crowd in Spanish. He said it was important to be at protests like this to give people hope.
Diaz’s message was echoed by many at the protest. The law taking effect is among the strictest immigration laws in the nation, but protesters like Marin said she won’t give up hope.
Even if she can’t work with Mi Familia Vota, she said she’s going to keep protesting.