Carlos’ immigration policy is simple: no person is illegal. For decades, Republicans have demonized undocumented immigrants as lawless criminals that take advantage of our society. And they do this to justify removing them from the state. But Carlos’ understands that this characterization could not be further from the truth. Immigrants are in fact less dangerous than native-born Americans, contribute billions in taxes every year, and are the hard-working backbone of the Florida economy. If any group deserves the chance at a better life this country offers, its Florida’s immigrant community. And that’s besides the fact that these immigrants aren’t a faceless mob. They are the families, friends, and neighbors who help make Florida the special place that it is. That’s why Carlos has dedicated many of his efforts to standing up for and protecting immigrants.
The Florida Trust Act
In 2018, Carlos filed the Florida Trust Act which would have been one of the most significant safety measures ever implemented for undocumented immigrants in the state’s history. The act would have forbidden Florida’s governments, schools, and law enforcement from complying with ICE detainer requests without a warrant. Not only is this unconstitutional in the first place, it would also protect immigrants from being targeted by the state they call home while freeing up Florida’s law enforcement to focus on actual criminals.
"We are NOT going to be deterred. We need to send a message to the immigrant community that there are leaders that have their backs!” - Carlos Guillermo Smith, Fox 35
The law would have also protected the privacy of immigrants. It forbid the collection of their information in databases and removed the need to reveal one’s immigration status to access public services. Yet, even with these safety measures in place, it would be inevitable that some immigrants end up facing deportation. That’s why the bill also ensured every immigrant the constitutional right to legal counsel in the event they go to court.
Protecting Immigrant Communities from warrantless ICE deportations
Over the past few years, anti-immigrant legislation pushed by Trump Republicans helped accelerate deportations and family separations in our state. From the moment this movement started, Carlos became a fierce critic and worked to lead the resistance effort. He slammed the bill in the legislature, in speeches, and on social media. He was vocal on its unconstitutionality as well as the cruelty and family separations it would lead to. Even when the bill passed, Carlos didn’t quit fighting. Instead, he has supported lawsuits of the bill and has vowed to continue finding ways to protect the immigrant community.
Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants
Carlos has also worked hard to give undocumented immigrants the ability to get drivers licenses. Just last year, he filed a bill that would allow identification like passports or foreign birth certificates on license applications. The benefits for immigrants is obvious: no longer would they have to worry about minor traffic violations derailing their lives. They could finally do something as simple as driving their children to school without fear. It would also give them the ability to find jobs further from their homes – removing a significant economic barrier.
But there are also plenty of benefits for native Floridians too. Drivers licenses require training and tests, making the roads safer for everyone. Drivers licenses would also allow immigrants to apply for car insurance. This means there would be fewer uninsured crashes across the state AND lower premiums due to the larger pool of policyholders. And if that weren’t enough, the bill would also bring in an additional $69 million in state revenue while increasing economic activity through things like vehicle sales.
Dreamers, undocumented immigrants that come to the US as children, call this country their home. They ingrain themselves into our communities and our communities in turn ingrain themselves in them. No wonder Carlos considers them just as American as US citizens – only without the paperwork. That’s why he’s been a vocal supporter of protecting DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This program offers Dreamers temporary protection from deportation, drivers licenses, and work permits.
But recently, DACA has come under attack by a Republican controlled Congress and the Trump Administration. Carlos has used his platform to encourage opposition to these efforts and lift up the stories of the Dreamers that would be affected. He has also co-signed official letters to Congress and co-sponsored a bill in the Florida House urging Congress to preserve the program.
Many of those that come to America do so fleeing dangerous and oppressive situations in their home countries. These refugees desperately need our help, and Carlos understands it is our moral responsibility to welcome them in. As a result, he’s been a leading advocate for the Haitian and Venezuelan refugees who have sought shelter here in Florida.
Over the past decade, Haiti has been plagued by devastating earthquakes, hurricanes, recessions, and political unrest. Conditions in the country are still volatile today, and that’s why Carlos co-sponsored a bill urging Congress to extend the Temporary Protected Status of Haitian refugees.
The past decade has not been kind to the people of Venezuela, either. The Maduro regime has caused extreme poverty and violence to become rampant throughout the country. That's why Carlos co-sponsored legislation urging Congress to grant Venezuelan refugees Temporary Protected Status as well. He also co-sponsored a bill urging Congress to increase humanitarian aid to the country while holding the Maduro regime more accountable.
Standardized testing fairness for English Language Learners
Approximately 265,000 Florida public school students are still learning to speak English, many of them immigrants. These students are consistently denied the opportunity to take standardized tests in their native language by the Florida Department of Education. Their has always been to learn English, but forcing them to take high-stakes examinations in a language they do not understand is unfair and counterproductive to the student's academic progress. That's why Carlos co-sponsored bipartisan legislation in 2020 to allow English language learners the opportunity to take standardized tests in their native language and he will continue to reach across the aisle to build momentum behind passage of this important legislation.
"HB 515, has been filed in the House, sponsored by Republicans Vance Aloupis of Miami and Ana Maria Rodriguez of Doral, and is backed by Democrats Susan Valdes of Tampa and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando. All together, they make up a formidable team." -Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald Opinion Writer
A Fierce Critic of President Trump
The Trump Administration has advanced one of the most damaging immigration agendas in American history. Just a handful of Trump’s worst decisions include severely restricting legal immigration pathways, waging war on undocumented immigrants, persecuting Muslims with his travel ban, building a ridiculous wall on our southern border, separating immigrant families, putting children in cages, and much more. That’s why Carlos has used his position and influence to stand up to the President on behalf of the immigrant community.