May 26, 2021 - News

Central Florida leaders call for immigration reform

A worker's hands picking tomatoes at a farm.
Workers pick tomatoes at a farm in Immokalee, Florida. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio are facing pressure from a group of Central Florida leaders to pass bipartisan legislation that would give more security to some of the roughly 490,000 immigrants living in the region.

What's happening: Business, political and religious leaders are warning of a post-pandemic worker shortage in industries such as agriculture and hospitality, and they're urging across-the-aisle cooperation.

The backdrop: The call comes as a U.S. District Court judge in Texas weighs whether to end DACA, which the leaders say would threaten economic recovery.

Between the lines: One in three hospitality workers in Florida are immigrants, and there are some 60,000 Temporary Protected Status recipients living in the state, many of them Venezuelans.

What they're saying: "We worry about our ability to continue to grow without an adequate workforce," said Arianna Cabrera de Ona, senior vice president of HR and general counsel of Costa Farms, during a press conference.

  • "Every president has accepted the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, and yet we’ve got nothing to show for it," said Al Cardenas, former chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
  • "When you have over 1,000 CEOs clamoring for reform, it's not about politics," he added.

Axios couldn't reach Scott, but Rubio blamed the Biden administration for a crisis on the Southern border.

  • "I have made it clear that a blanket amnesty for those who are in the country unlawfully is a non-starter," Rubio said in a statement. "It is impossible to do anything substantive on immigration until President Biden enforces existing immigration law."
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