There has been a whirlwind of changes in the US since the last election. One of those changes has come in the form of immigration. Many of Trump’s promises and some of his actions will have a direct impact on immigration. And it’s likely that Florida immigration will be affected. With such a high proportion of immigrants, Florida will be greatly affected by these changes. Here’s a look at how things can change.
History of Florida Immigration
Before you look at the changes that will take place, it’s important to understand the history of immigrants in Florida. The state has one of the highest levels of illegal immigration in the US. About 7% of Florida’s workforce consists of illegal immigrants. One study estimated that, in 2012, 925,000 unauthorized immigrants lived in the state. That’s about 5% of Florida’s population.
And that doesn’t include legal immigrants. About 20% of the state’s residents are legal immigrants from other countries. About half of those residents have become naturalized citizens of the US, and the other half includes people who have started the citizenship process or who plan to remain residents.
With so many legal and illegal immigrants, it’s no surprise that Florida’s workforce consisted of about 25% of the state’s workforce in 2013. And they do more than just work in the fields. A whopping 30% of business owners are immigrants.
And so, any sudden changes in Florida immigration policy would greatly affect the state. But what sort of system is being put into place to do that?
Why Might Immigration Change?
There are a few actions that Trump has taken that can directly affect Florida immigration. For one, there’s the massive push to deport illegal immigrants. Deportation raids have taken place across the country, and Florida has had many of those raids. In February 2017, officials arrested 600 illegal immigrants in at least 11 states. It’s likely that the raids will deter many illegal immigrants from entering the country when there’s so much danger involved.
Then, you have the changes in legal immigration. Trump has an anti-immigration stance. His executive order that attempted to ban millions of people from entering the US made that clear. Although he directed the order at Muslim countries, it has affected the way people from all over the world view the US. Instead of being a promised land, the US is starting to look like a dangerous place to be a foreigner. In fact, even tourism has dropped $185 million since Trump’s inauguration. People that were thinking about traveling or moving to the US may have changed their plans.
There’s also the wall. Trump plans to build a border wall that will keep immigrants from Central America out of the country. Although that wall is intended to prevent illegal border crossings, it has the potential to damage relations with Central American countries. And this could drop immigration even lower.
How Can That Affect Floridians?
A decrease in both illegal and legal immigration could have a serious impact on Florida’s economy. Many illegal immigrants work on farms for low wages. But the minimum wage wouldn’t allow that, and the price of fruit and vegetables could skyrocket.
The average income of crop workers is under $12,499 a year. That’s hardly enough to live off of, and few (if any) American citizens would be willing to do back-breaking labor for such a low income. It’s often only seasonal work. Combine that with the low wages, and the job loses any appeal.
In 2011, a farm in Alabama saw first-hand what could happen when illegal immigrants were removed from the picture. A statewide illegal immigration crackdown left one farm with no one. All 64 of one farm’s workers fled in anticipation of the crackdown. Even after several weeks of looking for employees, the owner of the farm couldn’t find anyone willing to do it. The only two citizens who came by looking for work tried to cheat him. If the same happens in Florida, the fields will be empty and produce prices will soar.
Less Legal Immigration Could Change Things, Too
The drop in legal Florida immigration cold also be detrimental to the economy. Over 20% of Florida’s population is elderly, and that number continues to grow. The state relies on an influx of immigrants to work jobs that the older demographic can’t handle.
And finally, there’s the drop in tourism. Florida’s economy has always been dependent on tourism. Many of those tourists come from foreign countries. But with the new immigration policy, international tourism has already declined drastically. Flight booking websites saw a 6 percent to 17 percent drop in flights from international destinations to the US. This fall happened ever since Trump signed the travel ban in January. Although the effects of the drop in tourism may not have been felt yet, it’s likely that the impact will soon become apparent.
There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the current state of politics. But one thing is certain. Now is the time to be prepared for some changes. If you think you might be affected, look for an immigration attorney.