The word got out on social media about the planned suspension of deliveries to and from the state on July 1. Many, including Latino truck drivers from different states, started sharing messages and videos, threatening to boycott Florida in response to the new immigration law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But when the day arrived, the boycott didn’t materialize.
Alix Miller, president and CEO of the Florida Trucking Association, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times that she doesn’t have any information on the subject. But Ricardo Rivera, 49, who works as a driver in Florida, said one reason for the underwhelming impact could be that many do not own the trucks themselves.
“And not all of us can afford to abandon a day’s work; it would mean less money for our families,” said Rivera.
Rivera worked during that July 1 weekend but expressed his support for the protest. He believes the law unnecessarily targets immigrants. In Florida, there are more than 1.8 million immigrants. According to a KFF Health News analysis of a 2021 U.S. Census report, immigrants represent 11% of the total labor force but account for the largest share in certain industries such as 37% in agriculture and 23% in construction.
The new law prohibits local governments from issuing IDs to individuals residing in the U.S. without legal permanent status and invalidates driver’s licenses issued by other states for individuals unable to provide proof of lawful residency. It also establishes a third-degree felony charge for knowingly and willfully transporting a person without proper documents into the state.
The law expands the worker verification process with E-Verify, an online system that checks a person’s citizenship, for businesses with 25 or more employees and requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to inquire about a patient’s immigration status. Also, the legislation sets aside $12 million for DeSantis’ migrant relocation initiative.
Elda Garcel, a 60-year-old mother and wife from Cuba who came to the U.S. two decades ago, said that the new law is not bad. She believes it’s meant to tackle illegal immigration and human trafficking and hold businesses accountable for failing to follow the rules.
“I believe they’re misinterpreting Gov. DeSantis’ law. It includes provisions that have been in place for a long time, like E-Verify,” said Garcel. “Having open borders for immigration isn’t a wise idea, which is why I think the truckers’ boycott hasn’t achieved the expected success. I’m not defending DeSantis, but I think there are issues that we need to address.”
Arturo Dominguez, a freelance reporter and one of those who have closely followed the truckers’ protest on social media, said that while they can agree that the boycott may not have had the economic impact truckers had hoped for, it was successful in bringing awareness to a national audience.
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“Without the virality of the truckers speaking out, most people across the country wouldn’t know the extent of the Florida law, similar to the anti-immigrant laws in Kansas and Texas that voters aren’t talking about,” said Dominguez.
That awareness, said Dominguez, not only led to larger protests throughout the state but also compelled some Republican lawmakers to beg immigrants to stay or return. Last month, state Reps. Rick Roth of Palm Beach and Alina Garcia of Miami-Dade County urged migrant workers in South Florida to ignore the law.
“Protest is mostly about bringing awareness to an issue,” Dominguez said. “And in that sense, most activists would consider it a triumph.”