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Rights Groups Issue 'Travel Warning' For Florida

FILE: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Heritage Foundation 50th Anniversary Celebration leadership summit, Friday, April 21, 2023, in Oxon Hill, Md.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The U.S Black rights group NAACP has issued a "travel advisory" for Florida, joining two other civil rights groups in calling recent laws touted by Gov. Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers are “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP], long an advocate for Black Americans, has joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, in issuing travel advisories for Florida, nicknamed "The Sunshine State," where tourism is one of the state's largest job sectors.

The warning approved May 20 by the NAACP's board of directors tells tourists that, before traveling to Florida, they should understand the state "devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

Florida is one of the most popular states in the U.S. for tourists, and tourism is one of its biggest industries. More than 137.5 million tourists visited Florida last year, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Visit Florida, the state's tourism promotion agency. Tourism supports 1.6 million full-time and part-time jobs, and visitors spent $98.8 billion in Florida in 2019, the last year figures are available.

In its warning for Hispanic travelers considering a visit to Florida, LULAC cited a new law that prohibits local governments from providing money to organizations that issue identification cards to people illegally in the country and invalidates out-of-state driver’s licenses held by undocumented immigrants, among other things.

“The actions taken by Governor DeSantis have created a shadow of fear within communities across the state,” said Lydia Medrano, a LULAC vice president for the Southeast region.

Recent efforts to limit discussion on LGBTQ topics in schools, the removal of books with gay characters from school libraries, a recent ban on gender-affirming care for minors, new restrictions on abortion access and a law allowing Floridians to carry concealed guns without a permit contributed to Equality Florida's warning.

“Taken in their totality, Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those traveling to the state,” Equality Florida's advisory said.

Several of Florida's Democratic mayors were quick to say that their cities welcomed diversity and inclusion.

Florida officials did n0t publicly respond to the NAACP's declaration.

“EVERYONE is always welcome and will be treated with dignity and respect,” tweeted Mayor Ken Welch of St. Petersburg in a message echoed by the mayor across the bay in Tampa.

“That will never change, regardless of what happens in Tallahassee,” tweeted Mayor Jane Castor of Tampa.