Dozens of people stayed at a Florida hotel in January while employed as temporary farmworkers for a wholesale plant nursery. But a Facebook video and a tweet by State Rep. Anthony Sabatini falsely claimed they were “illegals” — sparking a protest outside the hotel. Attorneys for the nursery said all of them had visas to work in the U.S.
The number of apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the U.S. border with Mexico increased by 317% during President Joe Biden’s first 10 full months in office, compared with the same period in 2020. With midterm elections fast approaching, immigration has been a hot topic for Republicans seeking congressional office.
But a video posted on Facebook on Jan. 30 — and shared on Twitter by Republican State Rep. Anthony Sabatini of Florida — isn’t an example of illegal immigration.
The video made on Jan. 28 in a hotel parking lot in Maitland, Florida, falsely claimed to show “4 busloads of illegals being dropped off from the Southern Border… All 18-25 year old able-bodied men… given credit cards of American tax dollars and a place to stay.”
The video was posted by The Red, White and Blue, a page that self-identifies as advocating for “GOD, COUNTRY, GUTS AND TRUTH – no matter how ugly the Truth maybe.”
The post amassed about 1,000 views. On Twitter, the video received more than a 170,000 views and was shared by Sabatini on Jan. 30.
Sabatini, who is a candidate in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, added text that read, “Hundreds of illegals were just SHIPPED into my congressional district yesterday—dropped off in Maitland. We MUST stop & DEPORT them immediately…”
The social media claims were followed on Jan. 31 by a protest by dozens of people outside the Maitland hotel.
But the workers seen in the video were not “illegals.” They were in the U.S. legally as contract laborers for Dewar Nurseries, a wholesale plant nursery in Apopka, Florida.
Attorneys for Dewar Nurseries released a statement to Click Orlando News, saying: “The workers employed by Dewar Nurseries who reside at the Extended Stay Hotel in Maitland are here in the United States under the H2A Visa program. This is a long-standing, 100-percent legitimate program that allows our companies to hire the workers we need to deliver the best-quality products to our customers. Any suggestion to the contrary is mistaken.”
The H-2A program “allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson also told a Click Orlando News reporter that 90 to 100 people who were staying at the Extended Stay Hotel in Maitland all have H-2A visas.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
Alvarez, Priscilla. “GOP zeroes in on Biden’s immigration record ahead of midterm elections.” CNN. 14 Jan 2022.
Gore, D’Angelo, et al. “Biden’s Numbers.” FactCheck.org. 20 Jan 2022.
Heath, Christopher. “Viral social media post falsely states illegal immigrants dropped off at Central Florida motel.” WFTV.com. 31 Jan 2022.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers. Accessed 10 Feb 2022.
Zizo, Christie. “Migrants staying at Maitland hotel are legal farm workers, Apopka mayor says.” Click Orlando News. 31 Jan 2022.