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Exploring the impact of Florida’s new immigration law on the undocumented community and their loved ones.

Immigration Divide: Past and present with a lawmaker and a historian

This week, WMFE is reporting on some of the issues surrounding Florida’s new immigration law, SB-1718. It took effect at the beginning of July.

The law limits social services for undocumented immigrants, tightens E-Verify requirements for businesses with at least 25 employees, and requires hospitals that get Medicaid dollars to ask for a patient's immigration status, among other things.

While Florida is taking a tough stance on immigration, this has not always been the case.

As part of our series, “Central Florida Seen and Heard: Immigration Divide,” WMFE’s Talia Blake spoke with Republican lawmaker Randy Fine about the new law here, while WMFE’s Nicole Darden Creston spoke with University of Central Florida historian Dr. Luis Martinez-Fernandez about how the state's stance on immigration has changed.

The conversation with Martinez-Fernandez starts with Operation Peter Pan in the early 1960s, when thousands of Cuban children were sent to Florida by parents who feared for their safety after Fidel Castro took power.

He says Florida welcomed the unaccompanied minors in a way it wouldn't now.

But state Republican Rep. Randy Fine says Florida’s new immigration law SB-1718 is designed to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants to the state.

He sponsored the bill in the Florida House and spoke with WMFE’s Talia Blake.

Fine accuses President Joe Biden for having an open border policy. However, under the Biden policy, authorities were told to deport non-US citizens who are a threat to national security, public safety, or border security, while those who have lived in the country for a long period of time with no issue were deprioritized.

In the 2023-2024 budget, Florida allocated $108 million to grow the Florida State Guard in an effort to protect the border and $12 million to facilitate in the transportation of undocumented immigrants.

This story is part of our deep-dive look at possible impacts of Florida’s new immigration law with our series Central Florida Seen and Heard: Immigration Divide.

Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined Central Florida Public Media in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from extraordinary hurricanes to historic space flights, from the people and procedures of Florida’s justice system to the changing face of the state’s economy.
After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to Central Florida Public Media. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with degrees in both Broadcast Journalism and Psychology. While at UCF, she was an intern for Central Florida’s public affairs show, Intersection. She joined on as Morning Edition Host in 2019. In 2022, Ms. Blake was appointed to the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalist’s board of directors.
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