For Immediate Release // Please Excuse Cross Posting
Thursday, June 29, 2023
Contact: Erik Villalobos,

New Report Finds “State of Emergency” for immigrant workers in Florida

Gov. DeSantis policies will further silence workers, 

enable dehumanizing abuse and exploitation

West Palm Beach, Florida – On Thursday, June 29, 2023, NDLON and Florida workers centers launched a new report detailing the precarious situation of immigrants working in disaster recovery in Florida.  The findings point to dangerous levels of vulnerability, with rampant abuses and unsafe work conditions already facing workers as state Governor DeSantis advances SB 1718 which will embolden employers who commit grave abuse of labor and human rights. 

“We’re confronting a state of emergency for immigrant workers in Florida.  And there is much more that the Biden Administration – and our labor agencies must do to ensure that workers are not abandoned to abusive employers that deny our humanity.” said Cal Soto, NDLON’s Workers Rights Director.  “We need federal labor agencies to engage proactively, we need disaster-wide protections for second responders in order to help empower workers to denounce abuse – that means protection from deportation and work permits too.”

The report is authored by Professor Nik Theodore of the University of Illinois Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development, and was based on over 200 surveys conducted with immigrant day laborers engaging in disaster response after Hurricane Ian struck the west coast of Florida last year. This report sheds light on the crucial role played by immigrant day laborers as “second responders” following devastating climate disasters.

Findings in the report include:

  • In just the 10-week period between Ian making landfall and the time the survey was administered, more than one-third of day laborers had been victims of wage theft while doing cleanup work. On average, the most recent instance of wage theft was more than $793
  • Among the 258 day laborers surveyed, just one indicated that they knew where they could report the nonpayment of wages and file a wage claim
  • More than 70 percent did not have a hard hat, 69% did not have an N95 mask, and 64% did not have protective eyewear. Less than 20% reported that employers supplied any of these important forms of PPE, as required by law

Report recommendations include: strengthening workers centers as disaster recovery hubs; suspending immigration enforcement and 287(g) agreements which intimidate workers; strengthening federal labor agency interventions in disaster zones; and increasing resources for workplace enforcement.

“These findings are the tip of the iceberg, what we’ve been able to uncover.  What is clear is that Florida’s immigrant workers are facing a deliberate effort to dehumanize and abuse them.  Federal agencies have a responsibility here.  FEMA, for instance, has a responsibility to ensure that companies that exploit workers are not allowed to access federal funding and that second responders are provided with dignified labor standards and have their rights protected. It is time for those that are in positions to protect our community to do so and include our most vulnerable neighbors. .” said Maricela Torres, Director of the Esperanza Community Center

As a part of the Report launch, Florida day labor centers, including the Esperanza Community Center, El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center, and Women Working Together, joined the National Day Laborer Organizing Network to host a “Second Responder Community Forum” where they shared and discussed the report findings with workers and local government officials in West Palm Beach, FL.

See Report by Prof. Nik Theodore on Second Responders in Florida:

See Broadcast of June 29 Forum: