A 12-year-old Latino child pleaded with a Florida House committee last week to stop Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda targeting vulnerable asylum-seeking children and other migrants. The bill, HB 1355, would seek to block transportation services bringing children and others to the state. A companion bill had passed the state’s senate just a couple days beforehand.
“Why are you attacking kids that look like me?” Zachary Olivos asked state lawmakers, Florida Phoenix reported. “Kids who are just kids? We are not criminals. We’re just kids. With all due respect, why is the Florida House even considering laws that target children? What did these kids ever do to you?” Well, nothing. But DeSantis wants to be president, so the committee ignored the boy and advanced the bill.
Senate lawmakers had similarly ignored testimony during a hearing last month. In fact, not one person at the hearing for SB 1808 spoke in support of the legislation, Florida Immigration Coalition said. The organization called the bill “an attack on vulnerable undocumented children instead of focusing on the real issues Floridians are facing like the housing crisis & the rampant waste of tax-payer dollars to fund the Governor's political stunts.”
That anti-child legislation passed the committee along party lines, with all Republicans supporting it. But back in the House, one Democratic lawmaker despicably sided with Republicans to pass the bill. Rep. James Bush III now joins DeSantis in having apparently decided that the years-old practice of flying children in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody to shelters around the country is a brand new scandal.
“This common-sense measure has allowed children to get into the arms of a loved one faster than if the parent drove across the country to come pick them up,” American Immigration Counsel Policy Counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick writes. “In all those cases, the child has a right to remain in the United States while they go through the court process. The government agency is simply smoothing out the process for them.”
This was echoed throughout the House hearing by informed speakers, Florida Phoenix reported. “These flights are routine practice,” said Florida Immigrant Coalition’s Ida Eskamani. “Flights transferring migrants, including undocumented children, have been occurring during multiple presidential administrations, including that of President Donald Trump.” Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy’s Karen Woodall further slammed false “smuggling” rhetoric “meant to kind of inflame this whole issue.” Florida Phoenix reports Bush III used the wording when he “referred to news reports ‘about children being used as pawns to smuggle people into the country.’”
God only knows exactly what kind of “news reports” he’s reading. For the record, when former Department of Homeland Security secretary and family separation architect Kirstjen Nielsen made false claims about “child recycling rings” and “fake” families, the department—her department!—couldn’t provide anything to back those claims up. Because she was a liar.
“Jennifer Molina, Zachary’s mom, also appeared, describing herself as an Honduran immigrant,” Florida Phoenix continued. “She was among a number of speakers who read letters written by people airlifted into the United States during the early 1960s from Cuba, and who urged committee members to vote No.” Florida Immigration Coalition said that Cubans who arrived to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors through Operation Pedro Pan have spoken out themselves:
Just to make a final point on the political nature of this terrible, anti-child legislation speeding ahead through the Florida legislature to advance one man’s career, DeSantis “wants to block state contracts from going to companies that transport unaccompanied migrant minors from the southern border,” Politico reported late last month. “The problem? No business that the governor’s office has identified so far has state contracts or gets money from the state, records show.”
RELATED: Florida Republicans advance anti-immigrant bill targeting asylum-seeking children
RELATED: Anti-immigrant Republicans have apparently decided that a years-old practice is a new scandal