Indian River County city shuts down to protest immigration law
Rallies continue across the state Friday in protest of Florida Senate Bill 1718, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, will crack down on businesses hiring undocumented workers.
On the Treasure Coast, Vero Beach was one of six cities across the state to rally against the new law Thursday, while the city of Fellsmere, shut down almost entirely in protest on Friday.
"The whole community here in Fellsmere, we all decided to shut down, give a little lesson of what it's like without immigrants. It's very important for us, because my parents were immigrants at one point, and it sucks that we’re going through this time, where we’re being targeted," Salvador Magaña, the manager of Mi Pueblo Meat Market, said. "We were closed yesterday, we did leave everything empty so at this point we’re just trying to fill up."
For Magaña, it's an issue that's personal. He said his parents emigrated from Mexico, and ever since have worked hard to contribute.
"They came here to work. That’s what they came here to do," said Magaña said. "And now we have an opportunity to step up the game."
Now, his work is threatened. With such a portion of Fellsmere made up of immigrants, he fears his city won't survive, nor will his business.
“We call this town mini Mexico," Magaña said. "A lot of people are leaving, a lot of people are scared. For us, there’s not going to be enough people to buy our meat, so everything’s going to start crashing down.”
Down the street at Fellsmere & Grocery, owner Nolberto Luna said he's not just worried about a lack of customers, but a lack of workers.
"Terrible. Terrible," Luna said. "Already we have a shortage of help. Without those people, it's going to get tough.”
Luna said less workers leads to a higher cost of labor, and higher prices on shelves.
"Inflation, inflation. It’s already— we’re fighting with it, and it will only get worse," Luna said. "It will only get worse. I think it’s very bad for everybody and the economy."
"Would you be able to still operate if you lost workers, because of this law?" asked WPTV's Kate Hussey.
“It’s hard to tell. We’ll have to wait and see," Luna said.
It's the reason every business in Fellsmere shut down, despite the financial toll.
“We want to give a point to the governor, we're here, we're immigrants, we’re here to work," Magaña said. "We’re not here to steal. Were here to work. And that’s all we have to do."
He added he hopes this one day of silence will speak louder than any rally ever could.
"We’re going to keep praying," Magaña said, "'Til the last day, 'til this law is done.”
While there are no future protests planned at the moment, business owners in Fellsmere told WPTV they're hoping that one day of silence is heard all the way in Tallahassee.
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