Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | Let’s talk about Florida

CW / Shelby West

It has always been customary to see headlines describing the latest misfortune of Florida residents, usually including a dangerous crocodile fighting a man or a hurricane decimating the coast. Since 2018, the state has seen headlines describing a very different scene, at the hands of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Since his election, DeSantis has been pushing the boundaries of conservatism. Florida, a previously purple state, has since turned deep red with his influence. He’s passed a series of bills cracking down on illegal immigration and education standards in the state. DeSantis has also been targeting the transgender youth of the state not only in schools but in their doctor’s offices as well. To make matters worse, where DeSantis goes, governors like Kay Ivey are usually not far behind.

Alabama is no stranger to implementing similar legislation regarding race, education and many areas of controversy. DeSantis worked to pass the harshest state-led anti-immigration laws in the country. SB 1718, which was signed on May 10 and took effect July 1, requires that all employers with more than 25 employees utilize E-Verify, a website operated by the federal government, to check employment eligibility. All employers who fail to do so will be fined $1,000 a day. In turn, using fake identification to obtain employment will result in a third-degree felony charge. IDs previously issued, in Florida or out of state, are now invalid and effectively banned. 

According to The New York Times, Florida relies on an estimated 770,000 undocumented immigrants in industries including construction, hospitality and agriculture. That said, the state has already begun to feel the effects of the new bill. As a rapidly growing state, Florida has long depended on the immigrant community to take on various forms of work necessary for a state to function that many Floridians shy away from. 

Projects have halted and crews have been cut in half as many immigrants seek work in states where they feel safer. Those who are approved to work in the U.S. flee with family members who they fear may no longer be safe in the Sunshine State.

Many states have immigration laws in place, but none holds a candle to this one. What’s concerning is the breadth of laws. The laws range from businesses to hospitals and have widespread impacts on the lives of those residing in Florida.

This isn’t DeSantis’ only work with overarching effects on the state.

One of the most recent attempts to halt the “woke” agenda was altering the curriculum regarding African American history standards. After passing the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, DeSantis made it very apparent he believes that the hardships and accomplishments of African Americans were not important enough to be included in the curriculum. We’re in a period when those in academia are actively attempting to highlight the past and the pains caused, when school names are being changed from honoring Confederates to praising those who hoped to improve the world around them.

People like DeSantis hope to silence these efforts by blocking Advanced Placement courses focused on African American culture, banning books about race or gender, and blocking critical race theory altogether. The purposeful exclusion of African American truths, such as slavery, would only result in a disservice to all parties involved in the school systems as well as Florida citizens. The additional recent ban of AP Psychology classes for similar reasons proves that the state truly does not have the best interests of its students in mind when creating these policies.

Once the news broke of the new act, NAACP issued a travel advisory as a direct response to Desantis’ erasure of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as well as efforts against LGBTQ+ people in the state.

Although critical race theory isn’t currently taught in K-12 classrooms in Alabama, in 2022 four bills were introduced that would ban any schools that receive government funding from teaching about “divisive concepts” involving race, gender and religion. Any educator or official who did not uphold this notion could be fired for doing so.

In March of 2022, DeSantis signed HB 1557, more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, into law after much national pushback. The bill began by restricting conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools, deeming these topics not age-appropriate. Students who attempted to have conversations about sexual identity with school personnel were also at risk.

Only a month after DeSantis passed “Don’t Say Gay,” Ivey signed off on a hefty package of bills with a few blinding similarities. SB 184 made providing gender-affirming care to minors a felony, punishable by up to 10 years, and HB 322 bars students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

Any change in a student’s mental, physical or emotional health would be subject to be shared with parents. Counselors are no longer a resource for students dealing with issues they may not feel comfortable sharing with family members.

Who benefits? Without the opportunity to talk with a confidential resource, we’re stigmatizing LGBTQ+ youth and putting the mental, physical and emotional health that was supposed to be protected on the chopping block. 

DeSantis has expanded into limiting gender-affirming healthcare access for minors, but it’s also affecting transgender adults. If puberty blockers and hormone therapy are used, parents and doctors could have legal action taken against them. Florida adults seeking gender-affirming care must receive written consent forms from two medical boards, the Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine. Both boards consist of members appointed by the governor, and they have already taken action to restrict transgender care.

To really tie the matter home, Alabama’s Sen. Tommy Tuberville resides in Florida full time, owning no property in Alabama. In 2020, during his race against Jeff Sessions, Sessions brought up his ties to Florida and even included a video dated 2017 of Tuberville stating he had “hung up his whistle and moved to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.” 

DeSantis is effectively inserting politics in areas that were previously private concerns. If the state is to fix its many issues, it needs to start with its elected officials. The same can be said for Alabama.

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