Viral video alleging Maitland hotel harboring illegal immigrants turns out to be false claim

FOX 35 News was inundated with calls and emails to investigate a viral video spreading online.  The video showed a number of Hispanic men getting off a bus outside the Extended Stay America in Maitland. 

Laura Loomer, a Republican candidate for Florida's 11th congressional district, shared the video and says it was sent to her claiming the men were undocumented migrants.

FOX 35 News investigated and found those claims to be false.

A protest had been organized outside the hotel, although once organizers realized the men in the video were legally in the U.S. to work, they called it off. Still, dozens of people showed up anyway.

"I was interested to see if we really are having people coming into our community that may be that shouldn’t be here," Kim Reif said.

Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson says the Hispanic men seen at the hotel are legally contracted H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers.

"It’s really a non-issue," Nelson said. "People are getting a little worked up over something that’s been going on for eight to 10 years."

Nelson personally knows the nursery owner who contracted the workers.

"He talked about bringing in some for the spring because it’s a busy season for the nursery industry to help them with planting and harvesting," Nelson said.

H-2A workers can stay in the U.S. for up to 10 months. 

Todd Miller, of Head Honchos, contracts H-2A workers to local farms.

"There’s a massive influx right now, so you have workers come in to handle spring crops," Miller said.

He says that over the last 10 years the need for H-2A workers has exploded.

"At the end of the day, these workers are helping put food on our tables, and it’s extremely vital that this labor in the system stays in place," Miller said.

The concern over the video reached Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

His team investigated the claims over the weekend. 

He says there is pending legislation that would punish anyone who tries to aid illegal immigration.

"We don’t want the problems of the southern border to be imported into the State of Florida. Those who were instrumental in that we will hold accountable," Gov. DeSantis said.

The organizers of the gathering outside the Extended Stay say they no longer have an issue with the legal workers staying there. 

They say if anything illegal does pop up they will be there.

"This is just a concern for our community. This isn’t a left thing or right thing. For me, it’s about what you’re doing right for our communities, making sure they are safe and that people are being vetted properly and coming into our country properly. That’s all we ask," Lou Marin said.

Watch FOX 35 News for the latest launch updates. Click here for Orlando weather, Central Florida weather conditions, and live radar.