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Protest held in opposition of new Florida immigration law

'Latino Movement' gathers outside West Palm Beach City Hall
Protesters march through West Palm Beach on June 1, 2023, in opposition to Florida's new immigration laws.
'Latino Movement' sign during immigration protest in downtown West Palm Beach, June 1, 2023
Posted at 11:59 AM, Jun 01, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Protesters gathered Thursday in downtown West Palm Beach in opposition to a new state law that they called anti-immigrant.

A sizable group of protesters gathered outside City Hall, holding signs to demonstrate the importance of immigrants in Florida's workforce.

Hundreds of people showed up angry and disgusted about SB 1718, which goes into effect in 30 days.

SB 1718 would fine businesses that knowingly hire undocumented migrants and also bolster citizen verification requirements for employers to ensure more use of the E-Verify system. It would also force hospitals to ask patients about their immigration status.

Many complain that the reform bill will not only hurt the health of the immigrant community but also the economy of Florida.

Jesse Bustamante, who organized the "Latino Movement" protest, said immigrants "work very hard" and are leaving the state because of Florida's new law.

"I'm very happy they're here," Bustamante said. "They're the voices. They're out here to spread the word."

Loud chants of "No SB 1718, No SB 1718, No SB 1718" could be heard coming from the protesters.

"Even when it was being proposed I was very upset, and it made me very sad," protester Josselin Basrrubias said.

Lorena Reyes was among those who attended the protest in West Palm Beach.
Lorena Reyes was among those who attended the protest in West Palm Beach.

Hundreds of people like Basarrubias united Thursday at City Hall in West Palm Beach for the protest.

To spread their message the group hit the streets, marching to the Palm Beach County Courthouse.

"I didn't expect all these people," protester Lorena Reyes said. "We were only thinking it would be like a few people."

But it wasn't just a few people who showed up for the rally — it was several hundred.

The organizers said they want Gov. Ron DeSantis to hear their voices loud and clear.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, about 800,000 undocumented immigrants call Florida home.

Bustamante said without immigrants, there will be a workforce shortage in the restaurant industry, construction and hospitality.

Several businesses throughout the state closed Thursday in support of immigrants. Other parts of Florida held similar protests.