Mexico’s president urged U.S. Latino voters not to support Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who launched his bid to oust President Joe Biden with a promise to “shut down” the border.

The Florida controversy has reached all the way south to the presidential palace in Mexico City, where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador last week urged Latinos living in Florida to “reject those who persecute migrants” and reject DeSantis.

“All of his playing politics with migrants was because he wanted to be the Republican Party candidate. I hope Florida’s Hispanics wake up and don’t give him (DeSantis) even one vote,” the Mexican president said during his daily news conference. “Republicans in the United States are hypocrites because they surely have immigrants working for them.” 

DeSantis announced his candidacy last Wednesday at a live Twitter event that was delayed and faced technical difficulties. But he still threw down the gauntlet to Republican primary front runner Donald Trump.

During a more than hour-long conversation hosted by the platform’s owner Elon Musk, DeSantis hit out at Biden’s immigration policies.

“Biden has opened the southern border and allowed massive amounts of drugs to pour into the country,” the 44-year-old conservative said.

“We’ll shut down the border, construct a border wall and hold the drug cartels accountable,” he added.

An estimated 35 million people of Mexican descent live in the United States.

López Obrador had cordial relations with Trump, despite the former president branding Mexican migrants as “rapists” and drug dealers during his 2016 election campaign.

DeSantis recently signed legislation that among other things places criminal penalties on anyone who transports an undocumented person across state lines, requires employers with 25 or more workers to verify their immigration status, and demands hospitals who accept Medicaid ask immigration status to patients and report the data. It also repeals a law that allows some undocumented immigrants to obtain a license to practice law in the state. Barring any potential court action, the DeSantis legislation goes into effect on July 1. 

Some undocumented workers in South Florida are not showing up for work or leaving job sites because of the law.

LULAC and the NAACP issue travel warnings about Florida

The nation’s oldest and largest Latino organization has stepped in and said people may want to rethink a trip to the Sunshine State, asserting that Florida is a “dangerous, hostile state.” The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) called the new Florida law “immoral and cruel and lacks total Christian compassion for the needy, sick, and injured, the least among us.”

LULAC National President Domingo García said in a statement, “Matthew 25:31 reads, ‘For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me in.’ These are words that most Americans believe in. But it looks like devilish DeSantis wants to kick out the immigrant stranger, imprison those who provide shelter and food, or even give a ride to an immigrant! “Under the new enforcement orders, Florida’s construction, restaurant, and agriculture industries are set to be economically devastated. These businesses heavily rely on immigrant workers, and the enforcement measures will disrupt their workforce, leading to significant economic losses. Furthermore, healthcare facilities in Florida will now be obligated to track and turn away any patient who cannot provide proof of legal status in the United States. This policy places an unjust ethical burden on providers. We do not doubt that if abuelita or tía is with us and we are profiled, DeSantis’ enforcement regulations will treat us like criminals, transporting a dangerous person who only wanted to visit family or enjoy Disney World.”

LULAC says that it is considering a federal lawsuit to counter DeSantis. 

“The actions taken by Governor DeSantis have created a shadow of fear within communities across the state administering necessary medical care and perpetuates discrimination based on immigration status,” says Lydia Medrano, LULAC vice-president for the Southeast, which includes Florida. 

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 772,000 undocumented immigrants live in Florida. DeSantis has said that a majority of Floridians support tighter enforcement and border security, even though Florida is not a border state. 

LULAC is not the only prominent group issuing a travel advisory to the state. So has the preeminent civil rights organization NAACP, which it says is in response to DeSantis’ “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion in Florida schools.”

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color,” said the advisory. 

NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson adds: “He (DeSantis) should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”

Other groups asking potential travelers to reconsider visits to the state include the LGBTQ+ rights organizations Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida, and the Florida Immigration Coalition. 

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is meeting in Miami in July 

Meanwhile, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is among organizations that are planning to still gather in Florida this summer for their annual conventions.

“For us it’s a contractual and business decision and we cannot afford to back out. Having to spend nearly $2 million dollars on the convention, breaking the contract would mean that the organization would not get any of the money back,” said NAHJ executive director David Peña, referring to the NAHJ’s annual gathering in Miami in July.  “The issue of a boycott has not been brought up to our board; we’re focusing on supporting the Latino community in Miami.”

Peña told CALÓ NEWS that convention attendees will have several opportunities to discuss the issue. 

“We have various panels referencing discussions on the Don’t Say Gay Law, misinformation/disinformation; we have panels on targeting the Latino community, violence against journalists. We have a variety of panels that cover all the issues that are happening in Florida at this time,” he added.

Tourism and convention dollars represent an important part of the state’s economy. In Miami, for instance, where the NAHJ will be holding its conference, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau reports that nearly 27 million people visited last year, generating almost $21 billion, an increase from 2021 of 8% in tourism revenue. The bureau also noted that hotel occupancy increased in 2022 from the previous year and that Miami-Dade had the fifth-highest hotel occupancy rate in the country even as hotel rates increased. 

NAHJ says its convention hotel is already booked solid and that “overflow” hotels are filling up fast.  Longtime NAHJ member Rebecca Aguilar says she feels torn, understanding the reasoning behind the travel advisories and calls for boycotts but also wanting to support fellow journalists. Aguilar is planning to attend the NAHJ Miami conference and the Investigative Reporters & Editors conference in June in Orlando. 

“While I see that these travel advisories are so important, I have to realize that what is also important is to support, as a journalist, journalism organizations because we are the truth seekers and we have to gather to continue learning and how to tell the truth even in states like Florida that tend to be going backwards. Right now if I were to say I’m not going, I hurt these two organizations,” the Dallas-based journalist told CALÓ NEWS. 

Aguilar is also the immediate past president of the Society of Professional Journalists and understands the financial hit the NAHJ would suffer if it were to cancel. 

“As someone who has looked at budgets, when you cancel a convention, you lose a lot of money because you’ve either put down deposits or hotel blocs, convention floors or conference floors, and the money doesn’t get returned. So in the end, I don’t want to hurt my people, I don’t want to hurt people that are in my career, which are journalists. I have to be able to go support the organizations that are the ones that are fleshing out these stories that the public needs to know,” Aguilar said, adding, “I hope that the message to LULAC and NAACP when it comes to us journalists like myself, that they realize that what they’re doing is obviously something to protect communities, but at the same time they have to realize that journalists are the ones who tell the world about what these groups are doing to protect communities. Conventions are constantly evolving, what do we need; what’s missing. I’m confident that the leaders both at the IRE and NAHJ are making sure they’re definitely going to have some kind of information that will help us cover this story and cover it thoroughly.”

Miami-Dade County saw more than 26.5 million visitors last year, generating over $20.8 billion in tourism revenue.

Orlando, where Disney World is located, was named the largest U.S. travel and tourism city destination by the World Travel & Tourism Council last year.

The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau stated in its 2022 Visitors Industry Overview report that a total of 26.5 million visitors came to the county last year, with 19.2 million coming for overnight stays and 7.3 million for day-time visits.

Raised in Puerto Rico, Patricia Guadalupe is a bilingual multimedia journalist based in Washington, D.C., covering the capital for both English and Spanish-language media outlets. She is also an adjunct...