Florida Republicans who voted to pass the state's imminent anti-immigration law are trying to curb a potentially disastrous mass exodus of undocumented residents by touting the legislation's many "loopholes."
GOP Rep. Rick Roth told NPR on Tuesday that state Senate Bill 1718, which goes into effect on July 1, was designed to "scare migrants."
But by delving into the bill's details in public forums, Roth said, he hopes to persuade long-time immigrant residents who already have jobs not to flee the state because the law "is not as bad as you heard."
He added: "The bill really has a lot of loopholes in it that gives you comfort. And the main purpose of the bill is to deter people from coming and to tighten the enforcement in the future."
Had the bill been intended to be fully enforced, it would have included funding for enforcement, according to Roth. "So that's why I'm trying to tell people that it's more of a political bill than policy."
During a faith-based event addressing the implications of the new law on Monday, Roth was captured on video urging attendees not to leave the state despite the bill's intimidating language.
"This bill is 100 percent supposed to scare you," Roth said. "I'm a farmer and the farmers are mad as hell. We are losing employees that are already starting to move to Georgia and other states. It's urgent that you talk to all your other people and convince them that you have resources, state representatives, other people that can explain the bill to you."