RECORDING: Advocates Respond to DeSantis’ Cruel Relocation Program, Call on Governor to “Extend a Hand of Love”

For Immediate Release:
February 16, 2023

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TALLAHASSEE – On Thursday, Feb. 16, Florida and national leaders responded to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature’s decision to create an expanded relocation program that will allow the Florida Division of Emergency Management (“DEM”) and law enforcement to hunt and target migrants anywhere in the U.S., including Florida, and relocate them to states other than Florida. A recording of the webinar is available here, and a backgrounder from SPLC is available here.

Monseigneur Jean Fritz Bazin with the Episcopalian Archdiocese in Little Haiti issued a “call to all faith communities to remember the commitment to welcome and treat immigrants, referred to as ‘aliens in our midst,’ with fairness and compassion. There is room for many more in this land and in this state, if we would only extend a hand of love. We call on the governor to reconsider and listen to the voice of the one who created us and loves us all.”

Said Luis Sousa-Lazaballet for the Hope CommUnity Center: “Despite being here in the U.S. for more than 20 years and having had almost every immigration status you could think of — student visa, H(1)(b), a green card and finally that blue passport, U.S. citizenship — after 20 years I could still be seen as a second class citizen. I find that, quite frankly, repulsive.”  

Paul Namphy, Lead Organizer with Family Action Network Movement (FANM) added: “Folks on the far right eyeing the White House are trying to outdo each other, that’s what we saw with the 50 Venezuelans in Martha’s Vineyard. This a race to the bottom, a lack of compassion or rather, anti-compassion.” 

Tessa Petit, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition said: “By signing this bill into law, Gov. DeSantis continues to use much-needed state resources to fund his political stunts. This is a confirmation that our state legislature is, once again, not prioritizing the people of Florida, and is making immigrants targets of hate and injustice, those same people who fled their homes in search of help and safety. To all Floridians, I invite you to call your senators and house representatives and tell them what those dollars can do in your community, and help them better govern our Florida. I challenge Floridians from all areas of the state, regardless of your party affiliation, to see the good and the humanity of people who are fleeing horrible conditions and stand to protect them by voicing your disapproval of this bill.”

“This so-called ‘Relocation Program’ will further an agenda that harms us all,” said Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet, executive director, Hope CommUnity Center. “Immigrants are an integral part of our state. At Hope CommUnity Center, we know firsthand the impacts of policies that create fear in the immigrant community. Floridians need true leadership that unifies us. It is time for Gov. DeSantis to use our resources to support struggling Floridians instead of targeting asylum seekers.”

Added Shalyn Fluharty, executive director of Americans for Immigrant Justice: “Treating human beings with dignity and respect is a bipartisan value, as is avoiding confusion, chaos and disorder in our immigration system. Gov. DeSantis’s relocation program hinders every attempt to create a fair, humane and orderly immigration process, while using public funds to indiscriminately target individuals based upon their race and national origin. Floridians deserve a government that works for them, protects the constitutional rights of all Florida residents and utilizes valuable taxpayer dollars to invest in our communities.”

Watch the webinar here and read this backgrounder from SPLC.


The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights is composed of more than 100 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit:  

Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) is an award-winning non-profit law firm that fights for justice for immigrants through a combination of direct representation, impact litigation, advocacy and outreach. AI Justice champions the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children; advocates for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence; serves as a watchdog on immigration detention practices and policies; fights to keep families informed, empowered and together; and pursues redress on behalf of immigrant groups with particular and compelling claims to justice. For more information, visit

Family Action Network Movement is a non-profit organization that advocates for lower income and marginalized people in Miami, Florida and organizes its members around such as comprehensive immigration reform, affordable housing, and climate gentrification and equity. To learn more about

The Florida Immigrant Coalition is a statewide alliance of over 60 member organizations, including farmworkers, students, service providers, grassroots organizations, and legal advocates, who come together for the fair treatment of all people. For more information, visit

Hope CommUnity Center is a non-profit organization in Apopka, Florida that fosters diverse, empowered, learning communities engaged in personal and societal transformation. Through service and advocacy, Hope CommUnity Center stands together with immigrants and others who are tenacious and courageous in the face of all systems of oppression. For more information, visit

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit