As Gov. Ron DeSantis spent more Florida tax dollars flying migrants out of Texas, Republican lawmakers back home were begging migrant workers to stay in their jobs here in Florida.
In a remarkable video that surfaced Monday, GOP legislators Rick Roth and Alina Garcia begged migrant workers in South Florida to ignore the new immigration crackdown law that both of them supported, promising it was more tough talk than serious action.
Roth said the immigration law he supported “is more of a political bill than it is policy.” “This bill is 100% supposed to scare you,” he said.
Garcia agreed, swearing the new law “really doesn’t have any teeth.”
The two hoped Hispanic faith leaders would urge their followers to keep working in Florida so that the state’s tourism, agriculture and construction industries won’t collapse.
It was a bizarre scene. And it got even more bizarre when Roth, a farmer himself, said farmers were “mad as hell” about the law. “I’m a farmer, and the farmers are mad as hell,” he said. “We are losing employees. They’re already starting to move to Georgia and other states.”
Nobody was angrier about this bill than the lawmakers who voted for it.
The odd exchange underscored an ugly hypocrisy about Florida Republicans’ immigration rants: They want their base to believe they’re furious at undocumented workers, but also want to keep those workers on Florida job sites.
The fact that DeSantis keeps running his multimillion-dollar migrant flight operation out of Texas — and not the state he actually runs — is more evidence of that.
Think about it. Conservative estimates suggest there are more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants in Florida. The American Farm Bureau says more than half its industry’s workers — as many as 70% — are undocumented.
Yet DeSantis is busy removing migrants from the Lone Star State.
His corporate donors here in Florida — the ones who rely on illegal labor to maintain their profit margins — are certainly appreciative. Just as they are about the fact that DeSantis’ new immigration law largely gives a free pass to Florida companies that hire undocumented worker.
The corporate donor class position is basically: Scream all you want about the laborers. Demonize them. Heck, even arrest or deport a few if you want to make a big show. Just don’t do anything to those of us who actually profit off that illegal labor. We wanna keep that gravy train running.
Florida lawmakers have been happy to oblige.
Roth asked Latino faith leaders to urge their followers to stay, saying: “It is urgent that you talk to all your people and convince them that you have resources to state representatives and other people that can explain the bill to you.”
The comments, captured on video by Thomas Kennedy, an immigrant and Democratic activist, prompted other GOP lawmakers to try running damage control.
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Senate bill sponsor Blaise Ingoglia, for instance, told Florida Politics that he didn’t think his fellow Republicans really understood the bill.
OK, so let’s stop here. Because now you have two choices:
You can either believe that Republican lawmakers voted for a bill that they knew had no teeth, wanting to demonize migrant workers in spirit while also keeping them on Florida job sites.
Or you can believe that you live in a state where lawmakers don’t even understand the legislation they pass.
Both options are pathetic.
Roth is right that the law has no real teeth — when it comes to law-breaking employers anyway. As I noted last week, this bill is an absolute joke on that front. One part says employers caught breaking the law will be given “30 days to cure the noncompliance” before facing fines. Another says the state won’t start assessing fines until an employer breaks the rules “three times in any 24-month period.” What other law treats lawbreakers like that?
In another video clip, Roth stressed that he didn’t believe the crackdown applied to seasonal employees, saying: “We believe the law is only referring to permanent employees, not seasonal. So the message is: Come back. And be ready to work. We think it’s going to be OK.”
That seemed like a very strange thing to stress — until I found a piece about Roth’s own farm that said “Roth Farms employs 25 full-time staff and approximately 150 seasonal workers …”
So, sure, seasonal workers: Come back to work on Rick’s farm. He thinks that’ll be OK.
Roth later told Business Insider he still supports the law even though it “has a lot of negative consequences that I’m trying to mitigate,” since the main and worthy purpose was “to keep people from moving to Florida that are undocumented.”
Meanwhile Garcia, a Cuban immigrant, told Latino leaders her ultimate desire was to have a meaningful immigration system. “We need to have immigration that is real,” she said. “We need to have legal immigration.”
This new law, of course, does nothing to further that goal. And apparently what it does do depends upon which politician you’re talking to — and to which group of people that politician is speaking or pandering at the time.