The immediate future isn’t looking so bright for the Sunshine State.
Florida is widely known for its beaches, temperate weather, and park attractions. Unfortunately, thanks to some recent, startling news, it’s being recognized for something else: as an unsafe place for some people. Last week, multiple immigrant and civil rights groups, including The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Florida Immigrant Coalition, released a travel advisory warning “immigrants and people of color” not to travel to Florida.
The travel advisory comes just as two bills —Senate Bill 168 and House Bill 527 —reach Florida’s State Legislature. If they pass, warns the ACLU in a recent press release, people of color and immigrants may find themselves more likely to be racially profiled by police officers, unjustly detained and even deported.
Senate Bill 168 is scheduled to appear in a committee meeting on Wednesday, while House Bill 527 appeared Tuesday in a separate committee hearing.
We reached out to Amien Kacou, an ACLU Florida staff attorney, to find out just how worried tourists should be when they travel to the state. “The text of the bills is very broad,” says Kacou, which is why the ACLU is concerned about the safety of citizens once it passes. He pointed us to Senate Bill 168 in particular, which would allow local law enforcement officers “unlimited” use of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers that permit them to jail anyone for up to 48 hours.
“The text of the bills is very broad,” says Kacou, which is why the ACLU is concerned about the safety of citizens once it passes.
This is particularly worrying in counties like Miami’s which the ACLU is currently suing for using ICE detainers on 400 people despite the fact that they were “listed as U.S. citizens in Miami’s records.” Says Kacou, cases of profiling and unjust detention are only likely to increase after the bills pass (he points to Arizona, Tennessee, Texas, and Maryland where similar bills were passed as examples). Then anyone in the state, whether a resident or just passing through, could find themselves in jail on a 48-hour hold for no other reason than a “foreign accent.”
What to Know if You’re Headed to Florida
Here’s the thing: If the ACLU recommends that you should be cautious when traveling to a place, we tend to agree with them. If you’re planning to travel to Florida soon, here’s what you need to know: If stopped by authorities in Florida, you do NOT have disclose where you were born, if you’re a U.S. citizen, or how you got into the country. However, if an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you are required to disclose them (though you can say that you’d like to remain silent). If you’re not an intended target of these bills, be vigilant and speak up if you witness something unlawful.
Know That There Are Other Great Beaches in the South
If you’re rethinking your Florida travel plans after reading this, know that there are other states in the South that offer great beaches in places that don’t make life hard for immigrants. Try Virginia Beach, which is home to a long, beautiful boardwalk and is considered one of the best beach destinations in the country. The water is wavy, so it’s ideal for surfers and there are family-style bikes available to rent everywhere.
If you’re interested in knowing about other places you may want to think twice about visiting at the moment, be sure to check out our 2019 No List.