IMMOKALEE, Fla. — The Immokalee community is reeling from the recent passage of SB 1718, an immigration law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis (R). The bill, set to take effect on July 1, mandates that any business with 25 employees or more must use E-Verify to determine the immigration status of their workers. 

Those in violation will be fined $1,000 per day. 

Local Impact and Business Owner’s Perspective:

Alejandra Lana, a business owner at V. Estrada Produce based at the Immokalee State Farmer’s Market, expressed her concerns about the devastating effects of SB 1718 on the Immokalee community. 

“It’s been hard since the news of the immigration law came out. You can see the roads, there’s nobody. No one that we can sell to,” said Lana. 

She further highlighted the fear within the community, saying, “They’re scared. Whoever’s still here…we don’t wanna come out. We don’t wanna do this. Because if they stop us, we are going to be in a lot of trouble, worse than before.”

Lana spoke passionately about the diverse nature of Immokalee, stating, “Immokalee is a town of agriculture. We are here of all ethnicities, Haitian, Guatemalan, Mexican, all over.” 

She expressed her sadness at witnessing the town’s empty streets and the departure of many community members following the news of the immigration law.

“Everybody’s afraid. If you were illegal, wouldn’t you be afraid?” added Lana.

The March for Justice:

Maria Plata, a community organizer from Unidos of Immokalee, shed light on the growing concerns within the community. 

“Community members are saying they are very afraid, especially with SB 1718,” stated Plata. 

Recognizing the need for unity and a safe space for expression, Plata gave context by speaking on the previous march, saying: “We thought maybe 200-300 people would come, and this was just an intro. We had 6,500 people show up on that day.”

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Plata detailed the plans for the upcoming march, emphasizing its inclusive nature and purpose.

“We will start off at 10 o’clock with the march, but before that, we have faith leaders that are coming to do prayer,” she said. 

The event aims to provide a platform for people to voice their concerns and feelings. Plata highlighted the various forms of entertainment that will be present.

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“We will have different entertainment. A band with music. Folkloric dancers and an open mic so people can express how they are feeling,” said Plata. 

The event and 4-mile march begins at 10 a.m. in Fort Myers at Centennial Park. 

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