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Rep. Soto: President Biden’s actions “critical in keeping Central Florida’s diverse families together”

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Today, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) and state Reps. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) and  Rep. Johanna Lopez (D-Orlando) joined state lawmakers, several local Chambers of Commerce and business leaders with the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) and American Families United (AFU) to celebrate President Joe Biden’s executive action granting work permits to the undocumented spouses of American citizens and work permits for Dreamers, long-term immigrants who have been in the United States for many years.

The U.S. is home to 10.6 million U.S. citizens who live in mixed-status households, with hundreds of thousands of impacted U.S. citizens in Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas and Georgia. Long-term undocumented immigrants have lived on average for 15 years in our country working, paying taxes and raising American children. Each year, undocumented immigrants earn $290 billion in household income and contribute over $21.5 and $13.6 billion in state and local taxes with a combined spending power of $254.8 billion. 

At the event, impacted families, advocates and business leaders praised the Biden-Harris administration for keeping American families together, with speakers showcasing how this action is good policy, good politics, and good for the Florida economy. Here’s what the speakers had to say:

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL): “What a historic day, yesterday. We thank President Biden for his major new immigration reform. This will affect over a half a million Americans, including many families here in Central Florida. Many people already think that spouses of U.S. citizens and children of U.S. citizens have an easy pathway to work and become citizens. Nothing could be further from the case. That’s why this executive order is so critical in keeping Central Florida’s diverse families together. Since DACA 12 years ago, we had yet to see more reforms to help our Dreamers, young people who know no other country but the U.S. That’s why we are so thrilled to see that part of this executive order includes work permits for Dreamers, not just those registered for DACA but those too young to qualify. This is a lifesaver for our region and it’s a recognition of the important role that immigrants play in Central Florida’s economy.”

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, District 42 (D-Orlando): “My parents both immigrated here from Iran. I know how important it is to create an environment that welcomes our immigrants rather than demonizing them. Two of Florida’s largest economies are tourism and agriculture, both rely heavily on immigrant workers. If we do not pass common-sense policies, like work permits for folks who are already tax paying individuals, we are hurting our economy and our communities. Florida is reliant on sales tax revenues — the counties that develop the most are going to be counties like ours, Orange and Osceola, because we are welcoming travelers from around the world. The people creating those magical moments are immigrants — working in restaurants, picking crops, building hotels. We need to look at this from the perspective of what is best for our economy and communities. We are a nation of immigrants. It’s what makes the United States so great.”

State Rep. Johanna Lopez, District 43 (D-Orlando): “In an election year, decisions like this are crucial. Expanding work authorization and keeping families together will boost our communities’ economy, providing stability and growth. We thank President Biden for his actions. It’s time for us to support policies that protect families, support employers and ensure our state’s future.”

Romy Moreno, Florida Deputy Director of the American Business Immigration Coalition: “We are here today with elected officials as business, advocates and community leaders to thank President Biden for using his authority to extend work permits to the spouses of U.S. citizens, as well as roll out programs that will enable many Dreamers to access work permits through their employers. This is good for families and it’s good for our economy. We applaud President Biden for this decision which will help increase prosperity for all Floridians and keep Florida families together.”

Stacy Lynn, American Families United member, mixed-status family impacted: “I’m excited about Biden’s executive order yesterday. This will be everything that my family needs along with hundreds of thousands of other American families with undocumented loved ones. I’m advocating for work permits and driver’s licenses. Not only would these changes promote family unity it would benefit Florida’s economy largely.”

Jorge Figueroa, President of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida: “This is a step in the right direction. We are very appreciative of the courageous action the president has taken to make these changes. We look forward to a robust, comprehensive immigration reform that would allow more individuals who have been in the U.S. many years, who have contributed to the economy under harsh conditions, to see a path to citizenship and to be able to continue to be productive members of their communities. We are the melting pot of the world — we need to show that to the world and to people seeking the American Dream.”

Karen Patricio, Dreamer and Community Organizer, Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc. (FWAF): “We are the backbone of this country and we shouldn’t continue to be treated as second-class citizens. We’ve always been contributing members of society. We have to do better and hopefully this action starts an avalanche to change the lives of families in Florida that are struggling. We appreciate the Biden administration’s efforts in addressing some of the numerous challenges within our broken immigration system. We hope that these straightforward changes will continue the conversation and create more pathways to address the injustices faced by invisible communities that are often overlooked.”

Lourdes Leon, President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida: “The lack of comprehensive immigration laws has led to a severe deficit in available workforce, leaving countless businesses struggling to meet their labor needs. This shortage not only hinders the day-to-day operations of these companies, but also poses a significant threat to the overall process and success of the Central Florida area. That’s why President’s Biden’s action is incredibly positive and crucial — it’s the kind of sensible solution we require when Congress fails to act.”

Khalid Muneer, President of the Central Florida International Chamber of Commerce“The Asian American community here in Central Florida is very strong, about 10 percent of the population of Central Florida. They own 15,000 businesses, so they are also suffering, just like the other communities. That’s why it’s urgent, from not only a human point of view but from an economic point of view, to bring many of the undocumented immigrants into the economic system so we can alleviate the major economic issues the speakers have outlined.”

Jan Gautam, President and CEO of Interessant Hotel & Resort Management (IHRMC): “President Biden’s executive action grants work permits to long-term immigrants to sustain Florida’s farming growth. We celebrate this while we continue fighting for more people to be granted work permits.”

Expanding work permits for long-term contributors is overwhelmingly popular among Americans generally. Earlier this year, State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), State Rep. Johanna Lopez (D-Orlando) and more than 140 local and state elected officials from 21 U.S. states and territories, signed a letter in support of extending work permits to these groups. The policy is estimated to increase annual tax revenue by $13.8 billion while shielding immigrants from exploitation and advancing a strong workforce that matches worker skills to employers’ needs. View the full letter here.