Migrants will be essential to rebuilding Florida after hurricane Ian


AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Shrimp boats lie grounded atop what was a mobile home park, following the passage of Hurricane Ian, on San Carlos Island in Fort Myers Beach, Fl., Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.

By Angelina Padilla-Tompkins, Opinion Editor

Hurricane Ian swept through Florida earlier this month, leaving many without power and severely damaging communities. Someone has to help rebuild after such a disaster, and who is stepping up to the plate? Migrant workers.

Migrants, both documented and undocumented, make up a large portion of Florida’s blue-collar jobs. You’ll see them in a construction zone, rebuilding homes, patching up roofs and cleaning up cities which is exactly the kind of work Florida needs. 

Roughly 20% of Florida’s population is made up of immigrants with 78% working in construction, extraction, building and grounds cleaning/maintenance, according to the American Immigration Council. 

Unfortunately, if Americans had learned anything during the rebuilding process of Hurricane Katrina, it is that even though migrant workers are essential to rebuilding communities after a natural disaster, they face stolen wages and work in dangerous conditions. 

“Documented and undocumented workers are vulnerable to exploitation by their employers because of inadequate legal protection and the failure on the part of federal and local authorities to monitor construction sites,” reported The International Human Rights Law Clinic after Katrina. 

With the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, many immigration advocates are worried about migrants being exploited by companies that will pay the workers low wages. 

Ariadna Phillips, New York community organizer with South Bronx Mutual Aid, told NBC news that the way migrants were being treated reflected human trafficking. 

“They recruit them with these very flashy photographs, saying, ‘You’re going to make a bunch of money and we’re going to give you this great apartment to live in,’” said Phillips. 

However, once the workers arrive, their wages are slashed, and they are told to pay for their own room and board, Phillips told NBC news. 

Ironically, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been extremely vocal about wanting immigrants out of the state. 

DeSantis vowed to use “every penny” of the state’s $12 million budget on relocating immigrants out of the sunshine state, according to the Independent.  

Most recently, DeSantis recently took credit for relocating several immigrants from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, according to CNN

The Massachusetts state government and Democrats were furious with DeSantis’ actions, calling it a human rights violation. 

Several members of the House of Representatives wrote and signed a letter addressed to Homeland Security, expressing their concern regarding DeSantis’ actions. 

“In 1962, southern White Citizen Councils started ‘Reverse Freedom Rides’ to remove Black people from their states based on false promises. 460 years later, Governors Greg Abbott, Doug Ducey, and Ron DeSantis are using the same ploys to remove immigrants. It is incumbent upon your agency to unequivocally condemn state officials who dehumanize immigrants and treat them as political pawns,” said the House. 

The letter also points to the fact that the treatment of these immigrants goes against the moral beliefs of the United States and the Biden-Harris administration. 

No matter what Governor DeSantis does to throw migrants out of the sunshine state, Florida needs them to help repair the damage Hurricane Ian left behind.