JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At least 100 people lined Atlantic Boulevard near Spring Park Road in Jacksonville on Thursday morning to protest Florida’s new immigration laws.
Protests like the one in Jacksonville are happening across the state on Thursday.
The protest comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial immigration law SB 1718 last month that will take effect July 1.
The new law will:
- Require business owners to use E-verify to check employee work eligibility
- Suspend employer licenses for unqualified workers
- Human smuggling penalties enhanced
- Bans local governments from issuing identification cards
- Requires hospitals to collect data on immigrants without legal status
The protesters waving flags and carrying signs outside Cuba Libre said they wanted to make their voices heard. Some signs read “Immigrants Make America Great” and another said, “Without immigrants, there would be no America.”
Organizers said they agree people who come should do so legally but they feel the process could be easier partially because they are essential to the country’s growth.
Like Oscar Gonzales. He only speaks Spanish and said he’s been doing construction in Jacksonville for years. And Ismael Reyes who’s been remodeling homes in the area for 10 years.
“Everyone interacts with immigrants or people that unfortunately are without a status and you don’t even realize it. We all need each other regardless,” Reyes said.
News4JAX spoke with the organizer of the event who said they want to highlight the contributions the immigrant community makes to Florida and Jacksonville’s economy.
“They help to build this state and they need the opportunity to stay. We are not asking for a right that we don’t have. We are just asking for the opportunity to continue to do the things right now that allow Florida to be a great state to live. We don’t want to steal your community we want to live together,” said Patricia Buitron with NotiJax.
A local immigration attorney said last month the changes will have a ripple effect on everything from the food we eat to homes built in the Sunshine State, but Gov. DeSantis said the new laws are needed.
“The Biden Border Crisis has wreaked havoc across the United States and has put Americans in danger,” Gov. DeSantis said. “In Florida, we will not stand idly by while the federal government abandons its lawful duties to protect our country. The legislation I signed today gives Florida the most ambitious anti-illegal immigration laws in the country, fighting back against reckless federal government policies and ensuring the Florida taxpayers are not footing the bill for illegal immigration.”
Business owners and workers said they’ll keep fighting for their right to work and to provide for their families.
“We, all together, we made a difference today. It’s a historic day today,” Jacksonville DJ Rafal Jurez said.