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Gainesville organizations react to proposed bills targeting illegal immigration

Danielle Chanzes, the Florida Immigrant Coalition organizer for north central Florida, said she worries about anyone qualifying as a criminal if proposed House Bill 1617 and Senate Bill 1718 get signed into law.

These bills were proposed by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia and Rep. Kiyan Michael and specifically target unlawful immigration.

Under these legislations, hospitals would be required to collect a patient’s immigration status on admission, private employers would have to verify a person’s employment eligibility through the E-Verify system, and counties would be banned from providing funds to organizations issuing identification documents to individuals who do not provide proof of lawful presence and more.

Immigrant Program Manager for the Rural Women's Health Project, Ethan Maia de Needell, said his organization is concerned by the lack of knowledge about these bills within the community.

“We talk to people about these bills [and] no one seems to be aware of it,” he said. “It is only by raising people’s awareness that we can actually begin to fight back.”

Chanzes and Veronica Robleto, the program director and legal navigator for the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County, will host an information session on Zoom at 7 p.m. on April 18, as an effort to raise awareness about these bills among Spanish-speaking Floridians.

“We want to inform the community about what these bills are proposing and what that will mean if and when they become law,” Robleto said. “We will also include some ‘know your rights’ information so that people are aware of their constitutional rights and how to exercise them to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

As to why the session will only be available in Spanish, Robleto said she hasn’t received requests to have it in other languages.

On April 5, the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County, the Gainesville Immigrant Neighborhood Inclusion Initiative and the Rural Women’s Health Project joined the Florida Immigrant Coalition’s statewide Day of Action.

Members of these organizations held rallies across the state to express their concerns about HB1617 and SB1718.

Local organizations and their allies gathered at the southwest corner of University Avenue and 13th Street.

“Don’t give in to racist fears, immigrants are welcome here,” one chanted as others held signs and flags and distributed fact sheets to passersby.

If signed into law, these bills will be enforced starting July 1.

“Immigrants are here and they’re not leaving,” Chanzes said during the protest.

Ana is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.