I was recently contracted by the good folks at the University of Miami to photograph a few images of a their Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in action in the community. The center’s Game Changer vehicles, a clinic on wheels that travels throughout Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in South Florida, provide free cancer screenings to communities in need. For the shoot, I was summoned to the Redland Market Village, located just north of Homestead.
I’d never been to the Redland Market (or even heard of it) but it’s an impressive flea market that’s been family owned and operated since 1987. It sits on over 27 acres of land and features an indoor/outdoor flea market and an extensive Farmers Market. It is this very farmers market that drew my attention.
I’ve been to Mexico many times and seen many similar markets and walking into this particular farmers market made me feel like I was walking into Mercado La Cruz in Queretaro. It was as if I wasn’t in Miami anymore – I’d entered a whole other universe. But one thing was eerily similar to those Mexican markets – women working. In this case, immigrant women working.
Similar to Mexico (and surely many other countries in Latin America), women put in long hours for meager pay in such markets – whether it’s a flea market, farmers market or a street food station in Guanajuato’s bustling Plaza de la Paz – women work. And they work hard.
Undocumented immigrants are widely represented in Florida’s agricultural, construction and tourism industries. Many of them, however, have left the state in anticipation of Florida’s new immigration law going into effect next month – with others left wondering whether they should also move elsewhere.
The new law (SB 1718), which goes into effect on July 1st, criminalizes the transport of undocumented people into Florida, requiring hospitals to ask about immigration status on intake forms, invalidating out of state driver’s licenses or other forms of government ID issued to undocumented people, and prevents local governments from issuing identification cards to undocumented people.
Supporters of the law say it will help expel the recent influx of immigrants, stave off future arrivals, and provide more job opportunities to citizens and others in the country lawfully. Critics say it will cost the state billions in lost revenue, while many of the harshest penalties are unlikely to be enforced.
Immigrants in Florida make up a little over 21% of its total population, according to Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a nonpartisan institution that provides research data and analysis. Florida is ranked fourth in terms of the highest percentage of foreign-born population, trailing behind California, New Jersey and New York.
In a 2020 study by the Center for Migration Studies(*), the institute found that immigrants make up about 28% of Florida’s essential workers and 26% of its total workforce, leading to Republicans’ concerns that a mass exodus could leave the state in a precarious position.
Florida Republicans who voted to pass the state’s imminent anti-immigration law are now trying to curb a potentially disastrous mass exodus of undocumented residents by touting the legislation’s many “loopholes”(*). Florida Rep. Rick Roth, who backed the law, hopes to persuade long-time immigrant residents who already have jobs, not to flee the state because the law “is not as bad as you heard.”
Roth and fellow Republican state Rep. Alina Garcia of Miami recently assured a gathering of Latino church leaders in Hialeah that the law was just so much theater(*). “More of a political bill than it is policy,” Roth said. “The bill really has a lot of loopholes in it that give you comfort.” “This is a bill to scare people from coming to the state of Florida,” Rep. Alina Garcia added. “It’s done its purpose.”
The Florida Policy Institute predicts that the law is toothy enough to take a $12.6 billion-a-year bite out of the economy. FPI estimated that hospitality, construction and other immigrant-dependent industries will lose 10% of their workforce. Probably more in agriculture, given that 47% of the state’s farmworkers are undocumented.
NBC Miami Channel 6 and National Public Radio has also found that fear stoked by the impending law has left farms, construction sites, restaurants, nursing homes and other employers bereft of crucial workers. “Florida is putting a pretty clear line in the sand that we don’t welcome immigrants and now we’re experiencing the consequences of that,” said Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani(*).
The labor-force participation rate of immigrant women was 57 percent in 2021. They comprise 16.3 percent of all employed women in the United States. Moreover, 33.6 percent of immigrant mothers are the primary breadwinners for their families. This number jumps to 36.3 percent percent for Latina immigrant mothers. More than half (56.4 percent) of immigrant mothers are primary or co-breadwinners(*).
Immigrant women make up 15 percent of all women working in critical infrastructure industries such as food and agriculture, health care and public health, education, and critical manufacturing. All this despite facing significant hurdles which include include the constant, daily threat of deportation.
This post celebrates these women. Nuff said.