Tonight, after hearing testimony that went on for hours and hours, Avon Park council members voted down an English only ordinance proposed by Mayor Macklin. Titled the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, the ordinance if passed, would have made English the official language in the small Florida town. It would have fined landlords renting to undocumented immigrants, and businesses that hire them.
Avon Park, like many in Florida, is a town whose economy relies heavily on agriculture, notably its orange groves. The hard work of picking oranges and other fruits and vegetables is done primarily by Latino immigrant labor. Since recent crackdowns on illegal immigrants, many have fled the state or been deported back to their home countries, leaving much of the citrus rotting on trees. Grove owners in Florida are faced with a shortage of workers to harvest the fruit, because the workers have been deported back to Mexico, or terrorized into leaving the state.
Protesters carrying signs had assembled outside the packedAvon Park auditorium since afternoon. When news of the vote came, the crowd cheered.
No word yet on whether City Attorney Mike Disler, who was fired after calling the proposed law "unconstitutional," will be reinstated to his job.