Florida CEOs Raise Wages, Urge Tech Innovation After DeSantis Immigration Reform

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NEIL MUNRO 6 Jul 2023

Florida employers are raising wages and urging greater investment in wage-boosting technological innovation after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a state-wide set of immigration reforms.

“Some of them have raised wages” amid a worker shortage, said Jeannie Economos,  a manager at the Farmworker Association of Florida, which opposes the law.

The farm companies are also “saying ‘More money for research into mechanization, we need more mechanization, we can’t afford the cost of labor,’” she told Breitbart News on June 6.

Desantis’s immigration reforms — especially his law requiring employers to use the E-Verify system — are also pushing up wages in the construction sector, USA Today reported on June 21:

The owner of a Naples construction company, Valdez, who is also from Mexico, stayed home in solidarity with his Hispanic workers who boycotted Florida’s new immigration law.

Since DeSantis signed the immigration bill, Valdez has lost 15 of his best [illegal migrant] workers, who have moved to other states like Illinois and North Carolina.

He used to pay painters $18-$20 an hour. Now, he’s paying $30-$35, which ended up increasing the costs for his work. “I have to adapt,” he said.

For decades, Florida’s bipartisan establishment has imported millions of low-wage, hard-working, and uncomplaining migrants to subsidize its farm employers, landlords, and retail investors.

“Norma arrived from Guatemala just five months ago with her daughter… like many workers from Guatemala and Mexico,” Union-Bulletin.com reported on June 22. “When Norma arrived in Homestead she noticed a sign on the side of the road offering work, and even without papers, she got the job at the warehouse working for $10 an hour.”

The massive resident population of perhaps 800,000 illegal migrants has chopped wages and boosted housing costs for millions of ordinary Americans, even as the state’s employers, investors, and landlords grew wealthy.

But that elite consensus has been cracked by DeSantis’s pro-American migration laws, including his law that requires employers with more than 25 employees to confirm the legal status of job applicants via the federal government’s E-Verify system. The new laws are pressuring many illegal migrants to quit the state, so opening up many economic opportunities for Americans.

“Irma Bautista is a construction business employer who has noticed her work staff numbers dwindling,” reported Winknews.com, a news site in Florida. “We had 45 workers. From 45, now we have 20,” Bautista said.

Union-Bulletin.com reported:

One undocumented worker, Carina, who did not want to reveal her last name out of fear she could be deported, said she is worried about her children. In the next few weeks she plans to return to her home country of Guatemala after 20 years, together with her three children, ages 19, 13 and 9. She said she had been thinking about returning for some time now, but that the new law was the push she needed to decide to return home.

Meanwhile, business groups and their pro-migration progressive allies are looking for loopholes and are preparing lawsuits as they try to keep the state’s huge population of illegal workers.

The farm companies are also demanding wage cuts in the federal government’s H-2A program, Economos said. The program imports agricultural workers for seasonal jobs. However, GOP Senators have quietly blocked a Democratic-pushed plan to slash wages paid to H-2A foreign workers.

Many farm companies prefer to rely on cheap, disposable labor instead of American-made, crop-picking machines.

Their cheap-labor priorities are often touted by many establishment media outlets.

  • “New immigration law sparks fear and worker exodus from Florida,” said the June 21 headline in USA Today.

“Florida’s new immigration law previews a DeSantis presidency: The law that takes effect this weekend has already sparked fear — and could carry human and financial costs,” said Vox.com.

The farmworkers’ group is also on the same side as business, said Economos. “It is seldom that labor and business are on the same page — but on this one, I think, we have some common ground,” she told Breitbart News.

“Obviously, we were really surprised that the [GOP] legislature passed this [E-Verify law] because they’re so devoted to business that we didn’t think that they would pass something that would harm business,” she added.

Economos’ group — and other pro-migration groups — are working with companies and some Republicans to persuade workers to stay in Florida, partly by organizing illegal migrants to conduct loud protests against the wage-boosting reforms.

DeSantis’s immigration reform is spotlighting GOP divides between pocketbook-minded swing voters and the business-funded donors who prefer to win elections with “culture war” issues. For example, Jeff Roe, a top campaign adviser to DeSantis, told the establishment-backed Axios.com on June 5:

“The fight for the soul of the party isn’t about tax cuts or trade deals,” Jeff Roe, a top adviser to Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting DeSantis, told Axios. “It is this cultural combat that we have as a country.”

“These people know that DeSantis is a culture warrior for this time,” he said. “These voters are more angry than they were in 2016.”

DeSantis’s spokesman emphasizes DeSantis’s support for legal migration. amid widespread efforts by establishment outlets to describe illegal migrants as “immigrants.”

“The media has been deliberately inaccurate about this distinction between legal and illegal immigration to create this very sort of outrage based on a false premise,” said Jeremy Redfern, DeSantis’s press secretary. “Any business that exploits this [border] crisis by employing illegal aliens instead of Floridians will be held accountable,” he added.

“You can’t address the immigration issue only as a culture war issue — the economic aspects are integral,” responded Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He added:

Clearly, he’s committed to E-Verify, having made two significant pushes for it in the state legislature and gotten a pretty good bill, which went into effect July 1. But his campaign literature so far addresses E-Verify but in a more vague way, and this is pure speculation, — but I wonder whether the political-operative types are a little more skittish about it than the governor himself is.

DeSantis has repeatedly mixed national economics and voters’ pocketbook concerns into his immigration platform, for example, by threatening tariffs on Mexico if they don’t help manage the border.

The United States has to get Mexico’s attention for it to cooperate on issues, like migration, like fentanyl, and one of the most powerful ways to do that is by playing the tariff card. So you can’t separate what are sometimes segregated as “culture” issues from economic issues? They’re all just different facets of the same problem.

Meanwhile, back in Florida, even reporters have to admit that some Americans welcome the migrant exit. “Mario Martinez, born and raised in Immokalee, agrees people who aren’t legally permitted to be here shouldn’t be here,” Winknews.com reported.

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