MIAMI — A new state immigration law could worsen labor shortages in South Florida’s agricultural industry, a sector that heavily relies on migrant labor and struggles to find domestic workers, according to growers, immigrant workers and farmworker advocates.
María Vázquez, a Mexican nursery worker in Homestead, said that over the last year she has witnessed colleagues and community members leave South Miami-Dade County, a region that grows warm-weather plants, fruits, and vegetables that don’t grow in most of the rest of the country.
“Many people here risk their lives crossing the desert to get to this country. They leave children, wives. Then they come to a state where they put this law in place. They get scared and leave for another where they won’t get persecuted,” said Vázquez, who has lived in Homestead for over two decades.
The new Florida law, known as SB1718, came into effect on July 1. The legislation cracks down on undocumented labor and enacts a series of other immigration-related restrictions. The extent of the law’s impact will become clearer as agricultural businesses need more hands to harvest winter and spring produce and seasonal workers return to harvest the fruits and vegetables, say farmers, workers, and advocates.
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