Massive protest against SB1718 in Ft Myers gets national media attention

Over one thousand people braved scorching sun and temperatures in the 90s to mark 5 miles through Ft Myers’ downtown against SB1718

USA TODAY: “She wiped away tears, shaking her head as her daughter sat next to her. ‘You want to stay, but you also want to go.'”

WGCU: “One of the strictest laws in the nations aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration takes effect in Florida July 1, and already the ramifications can be felt.”

Florida’s anti-immigrant law, SB1718, took effect on July 1, sending hundreds of thousands of Florida residents — fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, farmworkers, construction workers, senior citizens and kindergartners — into a state of uncertainty and despair. But despite the fear and disinformation swirling around immigrant communities over the past several weeks, countless Florida immigrants and their allies turned their anguish into action and took to the streets in vibrant protests across the state last week to call for justice and respect for people whose contributions to the state’s economy, culture, and history are too great to be measured.  From Homestead to Tallahassee, grassroots organizations and community groups came together with a single message: Immigrants make Florida stronger, and deserve to be treated with respect. 

In Fort Myers, over 1,000 protestors marched through the city’s historic downtown, demanding an end to SB1718. Flying a colorful mix of banners demanding justice for farmworkers and other immigrant workers, the national flags of Central and Latin American countries, as well as countless American flags, and carrying homemade signs in English and Spanish calling out the harsh new law, the marchers garnered national attention. 

Today, we want to take a moment to highlight the thousands of people (including nearly 7000 people in Immokalee alone back on June 1st — or about one out of every three people in town this time of year!) who are bravely overcoming the culture of fear created by the anti-immigration law, and are showing the world that their spirits, and abiding sense of community, won’t be as easily extinguished as some might hope. Here below we are sharing powerful photos of the Ft Myers protest, as well as excerpts and video clips of media coverage.  

We hope these photos and stories will inspire you to let your voice be heard too in calls to reject SB1718 and to respect the invaluable contributions of immigrants across the state of Florida. Millions of Floridians’ lives will be diminished by the ill-conceived law, and simple justice demands that we as a state do better by our friends, co-workers and neighbors who have come to this state to build a better life for themselves and their families and, in the process, have built better lives for all who live in Florida today.



As Florida’s new immigration law arrives, undocumented workers ask, should I stay or go?

By Chris Kenning, June 30, 2023 

IMMOKALEE, Fla. – It was still dark at 5 a.m. as workers with backpacks arrived on bicycles and foot to a parking lot next to Azteca market. Some ducked inside to buy drinks, or lunch, or work gloves, as a song by Mexican music icon Joan Sebastian played on the intercom.

Then, they waited. 

Roosters crowed as vans and repainted school buses rolled in to haul the workers to farms or construction and landscaping jobs 45 minutes away in cities on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast.

In Immokalee, where nearly 40% of residents are foreign-born, it’s a pre-dawn ritual that’s familiar to one 59-year-old woman from Mexico, who spent much of her adult life picking tomatoes, making a home and raising children. 

But on this morning earlier in the week, the still undocumented mother and grandmother sat at the kitchen table in town, agonizing over a painful decision ahead: Whether to leave it all behind.

On Saturday, a Florida law known as Senate Bill 1718, backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, will go into effect. It will impose some of the nation’s toughest penalties and new restrictions on undocumented immigrants – which has led many to consider moving out of state.

The 59-year-old sighed as she weighed a seemingly impossible choice.

Staying could mean living with the fear of being asked about her status at a hospital, new struggles to find work or worries about criminal charges related to transporting undocumented migrants into Florida, she said.

But moving would mean leaving her citizen children and grandchildren, her longtime home and the family support that recently helped her battle cancer, she said. 

She wiped away tears, shaking her head as her daughter sat next to her. 

“You want to stay, but you also want to go,” said the woman, who spoke to USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted for deportation…




Ramifications from harsh anti-immigration laws set to go into effect Saturday already being felt

By Eileen Kelley, Andrea Melendez, June 29, 2023 

One of the strictest laws in the nations aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration takes effect in Florida July 1, and already the ramifications can be felt.

More than 1,000 immigrants – those with legal documents and those without – gathered in Fort Myers Wednesday for the first-day of the week-long work stoppage.

Many draped themselves in the flags of their home countries, Mexico while also proudly waving American flags.

There they shared stories of how they came to this country in search of opportunities, doing the hard labor that most Floridians would rather not do. They spoke passionately about living in fear that these new laws will rip families apart.

And then, under Florida’s relenting sun, they marched through downtown Fort Myers stopping hours later at El Nuevo Marguey Bar and Grille where Brenda Cintron and her staff were waiting.

Cintron fed some 1,000 people outside her restaurant Wednesday. The pulled pork, tuna and Cuban sandwiches were free of charge.   As were the apples, bananas, soft drinks, snacks and water given to the immigrants who marched four miles in protest of Florida’s harsh, anti-immigration laws.    

This kind gesture by Cintron comes at a time of much economic uncertainty. Cintron has temporarily closed her eastern Fort Myers restaurant to accommodate for her workers taking part in the week-long work stoppage.  

“I’m agreeing with it,” Cintron said. “I don’t blame them.”

The work stoppage ends July 5. That’s four days after one of the strictest measures in the nation aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration becomes law.  

The law will require businesses with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify system for new employees. And starting the following July, the penalties will be a daily fine of $1,000 for companies not complying.  

Another aspect of the law says immigrants who knowingly use false identification to obtain employment could be charged with a third-degree felony.  

And anyone who knowingly transports an undocumented person into or out of Florida also faces a third-degree felony charge…


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More coverage:

News Press: More than 300 take to the streets of Fort Myers to protest …The News-Press › news › 2023/06/28 › mor… 

WINK News: 

NBC 2 (1) : NBC2 NewsNew immigration law sparks protests in Fort MyersSenate Bill 1718, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, takes effect on July 1, and on Wednesday, hundreds of people protested the law….2 hours ago 

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