April 14, 2024




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TALLAHASSEE — Florida advocacy groups have issued a state travel advisory following the passage and pushing of controversial bills by Gov. Ron DeSantis this legislative session.

LGBTQ civil rights group Equality Florida and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, made up of more than 65 organizations, both warned people away from the state on Wednesday.

“Today, Equality Florida took the extraordinary step of issuing a travel advisory, warning of the risks posed to the health, safety, and freedom of those considering short or long term travel, or relocation to the state,” according to an Equality Florida news release

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Of concern are “laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety laws, foment racial prejudice and attack public education by banning books and censoring curriculum,” Equality Florida wrote.

Another advisory: Florida NAACP calls for travel advisory over DeSantis policies. Governor calls it ‘a joke.’

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Bryan Griffin, a spokesperson for the governor, called the move a “political stunt.”

“We aren’t going to waste time worrying about political stunts but will continue doing what is right for Floridians,” he wrote in an email.

‘Extreme caution’ when traveling

The Florida Immigrant Coalition said travel across the state should be done with “extreme caution.”

“It can be unsafe for people of color, individuals who speak with an accent, and international travelers,” it said on a webpage made for its advisory.

Due to unconstitutional legislation supported by Governor Ron DeSantis and introduced by Legislative leadership, every county in Florida poses a heightened risk of harassment, possible detainment, and potential family separation based on racial profiling.

The coalition is referring to Senate Bill 1718 and House Bill 1617, legislation that is being pushed by DeSantis.

That legislation strengthens employment requirements, allows state law enforcement officials to conduct random audits of businesses suspected of hiring undocumented workers, and criminal penalties would be increased for human smuggling, which opponents warn is so broadly written, it could ensnare friends or family members driving a migrant across town. 

Local governments would be banned from contributing money to organizations creating identification cards for undocumented immigrants and driver’s licenses issued to non-citizens in other states would be barred from use in Florida – another provision critics say could lead to confusion and law enforcement profiling, especially in a diverse, visitor-filled state.

Florida state senator Blaise Ingoglia, a former Florida Republican Party chair and sponsor of the Senate bill, blames the Biden administration for the influx of migrants to the U.S.-Mexican border. 

Addressing dozens of immigrant advocates who have spoken out against the legislation, Ingoglia said, “I wish we would take this passion… and go to the federal government and tell them to fix it.” 

The travel advisories come weeks after Florida NAAC members unanimously voted to ask the group’s national board to issue a travel advisory.

DeSantis called that move a stunt as well.

“Our country, you know, it goes through all these – we get involved in these stupid fights,” he said. “This is a stunt to try to do that. It’s a pure stunt, and fine if you want to waste your time on a stunt, that’s fine. Look, I mean, I’m not wasting my time on your stunts. OK. I’m gonna make sure that we’re getting good things done here. And we’re gonna continue to make this state a great state.”

The warning to the LGBTQ community also comes days after state representative Webster Barnaby compared transgender people to “mutants,” “demons” and “imps,” during discussion of legislation that requires people to use public restrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth. It would effectively bar transgender people from facilities that match their gender identity. It also came a day after Senate lawmakers voted to amp up regulations on drag shows, something advocates fear could impact Pride festivals.

Republican lawmakers have filed at least 18 bills that directly or indirectly target transgender Floridians and in some cases the broader LGBTQ community, according to counts maintained by advocates

Contributed: Kathryn Varn and John Kennedy, USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida.

USA Today Network-Florida government accountability reporter Douglas Soule is based in Tallahassee, Fla. He can be reached at [email protected]. Twitter: @DouglasSoule

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LGBTQ, immigrant advocacy groups issue Florida travel advisory over DeSantis policies