On 24 May, Florida governor Ron DeSantis launched his 2024 presidential campaign. The Republican said in a video posted to Twitter:
I’m Ron DeSantis and I’m running for president to lead our great American comeback.
He released the footage moments before the scheduled start of a chaotic livestreamed Twitter chat with Elon Musk, during which he was planning to make his formal announcement.
In his speech, DeSantis vowed to lead Americans into a new era of success and fight for their freedoms. However, his recent streak of lawmaking shows that his commitment to ‘freedom’ is far from the actual case.
Campaign of discrimination
Back in April, DeSantis brought in a 6-week abortion ban. This makes his state one of the most restrictive in the US regarding abortion rights. The same law also requires that survivors of rape and incest show ‘proof’ of what happened to them in order to qualify for a termination.
On May 10, he signed what he called the “strongest anti-illegal immigration bill in the nation” to bar undocumented workers from jobs in the state. Starting July 1, businesses will be required to use the federal E-Verify system to check the legal status of all new employees. They would also face heavy fines for defying the law and employing undocumented people.
Likewise, healthcare providers would be required to collect immigration status in order to provide treatment. This would be a strong deterrent to undocumented individuals, massively restricting their access to healthcare.
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Then, on May 15, the governor signed legislation regarding diversity in universities. It prohibits Florida’s public higher education institutions from spending federal money on diversity and inclusion initiatives. He also placed limits on courses and materials teaching critical race or gender theories in both schools and universities.
And none of this is to mention the prolonged campaign of discrimination he has launched against queer, and particularly trans, people in his state.
In fact, the situation for minorities in Florida has become so dire that two separate human rights bodies have issued travel warnings. They are advising people to take extreme caution in visiting the state.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the US’ largest LGBTQ+ organisation. It issued a joint statement with Equality Florida warning on the risks of movement to or within the Florida. It stated that:
Taken in their totality, Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose significant risk to the health and safety of many considering relocation and/or temporary travel to the state. We deeply regret that these attacks have already led LGBTQ families and others to flee the state and are driving more to consider relocation. And, in a state whose economy is fueled by visitors from around the world, it is with great sadness that Equality Florida has had to take the extraordinary step of responding to inquiries by issuing an official advisory warning of the risks associated with travel to the state.
Nadine Smith – director of Equality Florida Executive Director – added that:
Governor Ron DeSantis has inflicted deep and lasting damage upon our state, eroding the fundamental rights of our residents and visitors while exploiting the word ‘free’ as a hollow campaign slogan.
In a similar move, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) also took the drastic measure of issuing a travel advisory. The NAACP is a major campaign group which advocates for the civil rights of Black people in America. It’s statement warned that:
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.
NAACP president Derrick Johnson added that:
Under the leadership of Governor Desantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon.
The warnings issued by these campaign groups are stark. But, more than that, they are so intensely disheartening. Marginalised people should not need to be scared when moving about a country, but this is the point that America has reached.
If DeSantis’ treatment of the people in his own state is anything to go by, we should all be worried about the prospect of him becoming president of the US.
Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Office of Governor Ron DeSantis, public domain, resized to 1910*1000.Support us and go ad-free
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