Footage of migrant workers at a hotel in Maitland, Fla. rapidly circulated social media platforms on Jan. 28, often with charged language defining them as “illegals.” The issue that arises here is not just in this dehumanizing and antiquated terminology, but also in its complete falsehood.
In the original video, a man can be heard describing what he perceived of the events: “Fourth bus of the day and I don’t see a freaking family in here. Just a lot of 18 to 24-year-old males. They are signing up, each one is getting a credit card, hotel stay, and going where they want.” Very quickly, those who felt most strongly about their borders being “under attack” rallied at the hotel in protest. These sentiments were also perpetuated by tweets from Florida’s own representatives, some of which called for the immediate deportation of these individuals, using language that perpetuates harmful “us versus them” ideologies.
The workers, on the contrary to copious tweets claiming otherwise, were employed by Dewar Nurseries via the H-2A visa program. This program allows US companies to utilize agricultural labor from other countries (mostly Mexico and Central America) for work in Florida’s agricultural fields.
Not only was the perceived threat completely unfounded, but it demonstrated the staggering xenophobia toward not just migrant workers, but immigrants in general. The protests conducted by the individuals at the Maitland hotel effectively threatened the safety and welfare of a group of workers who are here legally and who provide for us in more ways than we could imagine.
Maitland, only a short drive from Rollins’ campus, is exemplary of the work to be done for farmworker rights and advocacy, right here in Central Florida.
Prejudice against immigrants is not a new phenomenon in our country, and the events at the hotel in Maitland regarding the H-2A workers are familiar when considering the emphasis our country has placed on the “border crisis.” Burgeoning social movements spurred from the dissatisfaction with undocumented immigration exemplified the xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment growing in the US under an increasingly unstable global economy.