A Conversation With a Miami Street Peddler
South Florida’s street peddlers are a clear and present danger to themselves and to drivers, as they wade into vehicular traffic to sell produce, flowers, and water bottles. Yet don’t expect county or city municipalities to regulate these urban ‘entrepreneurs’ anytime soon.
According to Miami-Dade 311, which provides rapid-response information about government services, merely filing a Local Business Tax Receipt application form is all that is needed to operate as a mobile vendor or peddler. The application fee ranges from $60 to $100 depending on where in Miami-Dade County the vending will occur.
The peddlers are, however, required to continuously move and to abstain from selling their humble wares within 500 feet of a school or park.
Since foreign-born newcomers to the US of A are the ones doing the majority of the dodge-stopped-traffic selling in Miami, one can’t help but wonder: Is this a legitimate small business endeavor, or is this just another result of illegal immigration? More of the ‘Third World Comes to America’?
To learn more, Border Hawk spoke with a female peddler who was selling oranges, limes, and flower bouquets near Florida International University whose flagship campus is located in the suburbs on the west side of Miami.
The hard-working, stocky woman, who could have been cast as an extra in a He Gets Us commercial, explained that she is from Nicaragua and arrived in the United States via Mexico. She has been in the country for five months, street vending for four of those. Her work day typically starts around 8:00 am in the morning and ends around 6:00 pm. She told Border Hawk that if she sells $300 worth of product per day, she can net a profit of $100. Apparently, the mujer from Central America labors as an independent contractor for a ‘supplier.’
When asked whether she had experienced any issues weaving around cars with bags of oranges, she said no. Fortunately so, as accidents do occur. Two years ago a street vendor was hit and killed by a dump truck driver in Miami-Dade. On the flip side, many drivers are uncomfortable with the presence of persistent salespersons approaching their vehicles. Across the street from where the interview with the peddler occurred, there was another vendor - a man - who was wearing a baseball cap and a full face covering which was an unsettling sight given the warm weather.
Exact numbers of street vendors are hard to track, but David Smiley and Matias Ocner, reporting for the Miami Herald, estimated the number in Miami-Dade to be 3,000. There is a Facebook group called United Vendors of South Florida with nearly 5,000 members, and which is lobbying the Miami City Commission to allow vendors to stay stationary.
Indeed, acknowledging the contributions of migrant peddlers, whose immigration bona fides remain very murky, has become a chic cause for left-wing advocacy organizations, activist lawmakers, and even ‘outdoor space’ foodie enthusiasts.
Also problematic is the U visa which, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, is “granted to victims of crime who lack immigration status and allows them to stay in the country and work legally.” It’s not hard to imagine that a lone peddler could be the victim of an assault or robbery (or claim to be a victim), connect with a sympathetic prosecutor or judge, and be granted amnesty via a successful U visa application process, as a way to remain here.
There are many paths to residency, and this is certainly one of them.
But it’s a bit jarring when bags of limes and yellow roses are symbols of the dystopian, anti-rule-of-law age that these peddlers - and their enablers - represent.
You can find Izzy Lyman on Twitter.