Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ anti-illegal immigration bill, which took effect this month after he signed it into law in May, has generated concern about the state’s economic future. As immigration laws become stricter, it is vital to assess how these changes may affect various economic sectors and key stakeholders.
And South Florida is right in the middle of it all.
The labor market is a major source of worry. The bill’s restrictions on foreign workers may result in labor shortages in industries where they are critical, such as agriculture, hospitality and construction. Farmers, for instance, may struggle to obtain enough workers to harvest the land, and that could result in crop losses and lower agricultural output.
Furthermore, firms in the hotel and construction industries may have difficulty filling vacancies, thus impeding development and project completion.
“The anti-immigration law is so vague where you’re acting with total blindness,” South Florida immigration lawyer Hector Benitez said. “Whether it’s studying, transporting family or working, people are very cautious because they don’t know what can get them in trouble. It has deterred a lot of people from continuing working in any sector of the economy.”
The law’s impact on economic sectors extends beyond labor shortages. Immigrants, after all, have historically contributed to entrepreneurship and innovation, launching new businesses and stimulating economic growth. With reduced immigration, the entrepreneurial landscape may suffer, potentially impacting job creation, investment and overall economic competitiveness.
It is crucial to examine the new laws, and how they could hinder Florida’s ability to attract talent, innovation and business opportunities. The state’s long-term economic prospects could be impacted, regardless of who is in office.
“I’ve seen an increase in people that are seeking help, and are hiding in the shadows that do not want to leave Florida because they have established their businesses and started their families,” Benitez said. “I’ve also been getting contacted by business owners that want to know the consequences of this law, and some of them have unfortunately laid off a lot of people who have worked in their company for years.”
Immigrants are not only an integral part of the labor force but also important contributors to consumer spending and tax revenues. Reduced immigration levels may dampen consumer demand, impacting various industries that rely on immigrant purchasing power.
Additionally, as immigrants typically contribute taxes, including income, sales and property taxes, a decline in their presence may have implications for government revenue and the provision of public services.
“Not only is the economy going down, but so is the progress of jobs and construction,” said Ruben Santos, a barricade company owner in South Florida. “Jobs have been taking much longer to complete because of the lack of workers, no one wants to do the dirty work and now we must face the consequences.”
Local and small businesses, including those owned by immigrants, may face new challenges due to the laws. These businesses often rely on immigrant customers and employees. If immigration restrictions lead to reduced consumer demand and labor shortages, these businesses may struggle to remain viable, potentially resulting in closures, job losses and a decline in local economic vibrancy in several communities around the region.
“We have a video that shows the Republicans that voted for the anti-immigration law regretting their decision due to the economy’s negative effects,” said Thomas Kennedy, of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Now, with the damage they have done trying to divide and conquer, it has resulted in not only impacting people’s lives but also the economy of the state and the ability of business to be done.”
It is critical to examine the long-term effects of Florida’s anti-immigrant statute on the state’s economy, and that will need to be assessed in stages. Policymakers will need to examine methods to alleviate labor market gaps, stimulate innovation and recruit qualified employees as the state’s demographics change and labor dynamics shift.
Evaluating alternate talent acquisition channels, fostering entrepreneurship and investing in workforce development programs may aid in mitigating any negative consequences and promoting economic resilience.
By implementing targeted strategies that support businesses, foster innovation and ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce, Florida can navigate the challenges ahead and position itself for sustained economic growth in a changing landscape.
But that will clearly take some time. And concerns are sure to continue until that time comes.