Undocumented workers and residents are a part of life in South Florida. Miami, its businesses, and its public resources have long struggled with the challenges of absorbing new populations, from educating young people who have just arrived in the country and are unfamiliar with English to managing a relatively transient workforce. It hasn’t helped that the gap between economic reality and the law drove this workforce underground, as Floridian society simultaneously relied on it and decried its presence. Nowhere in the country has the cultural divide been more pronounced between the hallowed status of the legal immigrant and the controversial reality of so many unauthorized workers. Immigration reform promises to bridge that divide and change life for the entire community—but how? A more permanent, settled population could create new opportunities for Miami—including more people legally able to start businesses, pursue higher education, and participate fully in civic life. Immigration reform also poses potential challenges: Will demand for already strained public services spike? Will the region see another wave of future unauthorized immigration resulting from another amnesty? How will amnesty, and how future flows of legalized migration are determined, affect the demography of South Florida’s Latino community? What comes next for Miami after immigration reform—and does the 1986 amnesty hold any lessons for the city’s future? U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, TIME Magazine Senior National Correspondent Michael Grunwald, Haitian Women of Miami Executive Director Marleine Bastien, and Miami-Dade County Chief Economist Robert Cruz visit Zócalo to discuss what immigration reform would mean for us all.
About Zócalo Public Square: Zócalo Public Square is a not-for-profit daily Ideas Exchange that blends digital humanities journalism and live events. We foster healthier, more cohesive communities by tackling important contemporary questions in an accessible, non-partisan, and broad-minded spirit.