Broad Coalition of Faith Leaders, Business Owners, Refugees, and Educators Denounce SB 1808/HB 1535

Floridians demand that DeSantis stop attacking children, faith leaders and immigrant children 

(FLORIDA) - Florida’s governor and Republican legislators continue to prioritize their political aspirations over the well-being of all Floridians. Rather than focusing on the housing crisis and finally getting to the other side of an unprecedented pandemic, Republican state legislators are attacking children seeking refuge, and the faith leaders poised to protect them. 

The new bill, SB 1808, would expand policies under past bill SB 168, which were already struck down and found unconstitutional in a federal court after a judge found it to be “racially motivated.”  It would also mandate local contracts and force law enforcement agencies to enter into costly federal immigration enforcement agreements that do little to protect communities. This bill would also impact service providers that help immigrant children and refugees reunite with their families residing in Florida.  

The move comes shortly after Governor Ron DeSantis ordered that Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) stop renewing annual licenses for shelters that house unaccompanied refugee children.

The following is a statement from The Rev. Frank J. Corbishley (Episcopal priest, Diocese of Southeast Florida):

“I applaud Archbishop Wenski for his outspokenness on behalf of child refugees. Looking out for the marginalized people of society, whether they be refugees, LGBTQ folks, or Black people, is at the heart of the Gospel's demands. Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature seem hellbent on further marginalizing the marginalized.  Kudos to Archbishop Wenski for standing up to the bullies!"  

The following is a statement from Carolina Arzola, an elementary school teacher in Palm Beach County:

“As a primary school teacher of mostly immigrant children in Palm Beach County, I find this bill particularly cruel and upsetting. The children I teach are bright, happy, and eager to learn. Their caretakers are overjoyed at the opportunity for education that their children are receiving. Working with mostly Central American Indigenous children, many who came here unaccompanied, and seeing their heart everyday, I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to harm them; and let's be clear, this bill would harm children in a most brutal way. Florida should be welcoming children just like I welcome my kids into my classroom everyday.”

The following is a statement from Norah Lossada, a businesswoman in Doral, Florida:

“I came from Venezuela with my two sons in the 90s and seeing what my country has become, I am so glad I did. I wonder what I would be feeling if I was there now with my children, unable to provide for them, having difficulties even putting food on the table. Leaving your country is a very difficult choice for anyone to make, but even more so to send your children on without you. Because a decision like that would devastate me as a mother, I can only imagine that doing so would be a last resort; and in the condition my country is in, I can understand it. I am now a successful businesswoman in Doral, Florida and as such I regard this bill as one that is reaching far beyond the scope of the state governor’s power to interfere with private businesses operating legally in Florida. That is not what free states do, and harming children is not what responsible states do.”

The following is a statement from Basma Alawee, a former refugee from Iraq and the National Campaign Manager at We Are All America:

“Anyone can become a refugee overnight. Yet, instead of acknowledging this reality and advocating for policy supporting and welcoming refugees, our elected officials in Florida have shifted focus by targeting children fleeing poverty, violence, and persecution - experiences that no child should ever face. Every child in our country deserves to be treated with compassion and dignity, regardless of their country of origin. As a former refugee, I cannot help but wonder how the people who once extended welcome to my children & me can quickly turn their back on vulnerable children now.”

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We Are Florida is a statewide coalition of community advocates, religious leaders, service providers, unions and nonprofits dedicated to defending the rights of immigrant families across Florida.