Florida has a rich immigrant history. Immigration is responsible for an estimated 30 % of our state’s annual growth, as we have long been a destination for immigrants from all over the world to build their own American Dream. Today, immigrants make up about 20 % of our state’s population, and 394,000 of the immigrants currently living in Florida have started their own businesses, bringing in an estimated $8.1 billion to the economy.
These hard workers are building better lives for themselves while also creating jobs for other people, which is something that cannot be overlooked following the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also contributing to our communities and economic growth, as immigrants in Florida have an estimated total spending power of over $100 billion.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created in 2012 and has given hundreds of thousands of young immigrants the ability to legally study and work in this country where they have spent most of their lives, without fear of deportation. The program ensures that these individuals are law-abiding and contributing to the economy by working or trying to improve their skills.
Over the years, the program has more than served its purpose – over 98,000 Florida residents have enrolled in DACA, including 6,300 workers serving in industries that were essential to our state’s pandemic recovery.
By offering protection from deportation, DACA has allowed young people to attend college, buy homes, and start businesses of their own without fear. As a result of this economic activity, it’s estimated DACA recipients generate about $77 million in state and local tax revenue. We need them just as much as they need us.
Unfortunately, as it stands, the program only offers temporary solace. These young immigrants must continuously renew their participation in the program to maintain their status. While they are attempting to build their livelihoods and create a foundation for their futures, they are also facing grave uncertainty that was exacerbated by an unelected Texas judge’s decision to try and restrict the program.
It’s time for Congress to provide them with some relief and certainty. Legislation like the American Dream and Promise Act – which passed in the House back in March – and its Senate companion the Dream Act, would offer Dreamers the chance to apply to earn citizenship.
It is now up to Senators Rubio and Scott to put their state and constituents first and offer the support needed to push it towards the finish line. Democratic lawmakers should also continue efforts to provide protection via legislation and the reconciliation process.
Federal lawmakers have a long to-do list right now, but as we reflect on all the good that immigrants do for us, it is a time to remember that our country would
not be where it is without the immigrants who helped build it.
Congress must embrace the significant positive impact immigrants have on our country and provide immigrants with protections and a pathway to citizenship.
Elizabeth Ricci, Esq., is an attorney at Rambana & Ricci, a Tallahassee-based law firm concentrating on complex immigration cases across the U.S. She can be reached at