Florida Governor Proposes Sweeping Immigration Bill with Tough Crackdown on Undocumented Immigrants

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed a sweeping immigration bill that could become the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in over a decade.[0] The proposed bill would make it mandatory for employers with 25 or more employees to use the web-based E-Verify system to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.[1] Hospitals accepting Medicaid would have to ask patients for their immigration status on admission forms and report to the state how much is spent on providing medical care to people who are not in the country legally. The measure would also give $12 million to DeSantis’ migrant flight program, which received national attention in September last year, after the administration paid to fly 50 migrants, who were mostly from Venezuela, from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The bill would invalidate out-of-state drivers’ licenses issued to undocumented immigrants and remove the authority for undocumented immigrants to be admitted to the Florida Bar.[2]

According to the bill, people sheltering, hiring, or transporting undocumented immigrants would face felony charges.[3] Hospitals would be required to ask patients their immigration status and then report it to the state. The steps taken would render invalid the licenses of undocumented immigrants issued by other states.[2] There are numerous detrimental elements in the suggested package, but one that particularly affects pastors and hits too close to home.[4] The proposed laws seek to make it a criminal offense for anyone, regardless of their immigration status, to transport or provide shelter to an individual who lacks proper documentation.[5]

The proposed legislation has been criticized by Democrats who put forward a series of amendments to try and dull some of what they see as the bill’s most controversial provisions, but they were all easily dispatched by the House Commerce Committee’s Republican majority.[6] According to Arnold, a policy expert for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, the legislation would be harmful to families, citizens and those with mixed immigration status “who suddenly cannot bring a friend, a neighbor or a loved one to church, the grocery store or the doctor without risking imprisonment.”

The bill, however, would make it a third-degree felony to knowingly transport someone who is illegally in the country into Florida.[3] This could apply to church groups that are knowingly transporting undocumented migrants into the state.[7] The proposed bill would also bar Florida local governments from spending taxpayer dollars on identification cards for people who cannot provide proof of citizenship.[8]

The House Commerce Committee gave its approval to the legislation (CS/HB 1617) on Monday with a vote that largely followed party lines.[8] The final committee stop for a Senate bill (CS/SB 1718) is scheduled for Tuesday before it reaches the floor.[8] The legislation provides $12 million for the state’s “Unauthorized Alien Transport Program,” which builds upon DeSantis’ plan to transport immigrants out of the state.

In conclusion, DeSantis’ proposed immigration bill would significantly impact the lives of undocumented immigrants, their families, and anyone who interacts with them. The proposed legislation could also have far-reaching consequences for businesses and healthcare providers operating in Florida. The bill’s fate is still uncertain, but if it passes, it could set a dangerous precedent for other states to follow.

0. “Churches fear Florida immigration bill would ‘criminalize’ charity” Tampa Bay Times, 17 Apr. 2023, https://www.tampabay.com/news/2023/04/17/florida-immigration-bill-churches-punish-charity-work-religion/

1. “Lawmakers back off immigration penalties that worried religious leaders” Orlando Sentinel, 24 Apr. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/politics/os-be-immigration-bill-house-hearing-20230424-uvlbzvlslfgc5nujsadhc7plly-story.html

2. “Immigration crackdown: Measures would make it tougher for the undocumented to live and work in FL” Florida Phoenix, 24 Apr. 2023, https://floridaphoenix.com/2023/04/24/immigration-crackdown-measures-would-make-it-tougher-for-the-undocumented-to-live-and-work-in-fl

3. “Florida plan would crack down on undocumented immigrants” La Croix International, 20 Apr. 2023, https://international.la-croix.com/news/world/florida-plan-would-crack-down-on-undocumented-immigrants/17691

4. “Op-ed: ‘The immigrant community in Florida is facing an unprecedented attack’” Orlando Weekly, 17 Apr. 2023, https://www.orlandoweekly.com/news/op-ed-the-immigrant-community-in-florida-is-facing-an-unprecedented-attack-33998593

5. “Bill would victimize immigrants for political theater” News-Press, 16 Apr. 2023, https://www.news-press.com/story/opinion/2023/04/16/bill-would-victimize-immigrants-for-political-theater/70108575007

6. “Florida GOP is on the verge of passing a Ron DeSantis-backed immigration bill” Yahoo Entertainment, 24 Apr. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/florida-gop-verge-passing-ron-231323503.html

7. “GOP lawmakers revive DeSantis’ immigration crackdown — with some compromises” Miami Herald, 25 Apr. 2023, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/immigration/article274647421.html

8. “DeSantis immigration priority bill nearing House, Senate floors” Tallahassee Democrat, 24 Apr. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/local/state/2023/04/24/desantis-immigration-priority-bill-nearing-house-senate-floors/70147498007/

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