Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Proposes Tough Immigration Legislation

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has backed some of the toughest immigration legislation of this decade, proposing bills that would expose people to felony charges for sheltering, hiring, and transporting undocumented immigrants, require hospitals to ask patients their immigration status and report to the state, invalidate out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants, prevent undocumented immigrants from being admitted to the bar in Florida and direct the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to provide assistance to federal authorities in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws.[0]

The proposed legislation would also make it a felony to smuggle an illegal alien or falsify employment eligibility records and require voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship and Florida residency. These bills have been criticized by Rep. Nanette Barragán and Vice Chair Rep. Darren Soto, who said that the proposals are part of the “Florida Republicans’ anti-immigrant agenda,” and pinned the policies on Governor Ron DeSantis.

Employers who hire immigrants without work authorization would face new state penalties under the proposed bills.[1] Six percent of the state’s workforce was made up of undocumented immigrants in 2016, and immigrants make up 35% of healthcare support employees, 38% of construction workers, and 49% of farming, fishing, and forestry workers.[2] This is a state struggling, like many others across the U.S., with a labor shortage and where the unemployment rate was 2.6% just this past February.[1]

Under the new bills, an individual faces a third-degree felony for knowingly transporting, concealing, or harboring undocumented immigrants, punishable by up to five years in prison. Anyone who knowingly transports or harbors illegal aliens could face a third-degree felony and up to five years in prison. In the event that the individual being transported illegally is a minor, the transporter may be subject to a prison sentence of up to 15 years.[3]

Patients’ immigration status must be inquired by hospitals and then reported to the state as mandatory. The legislation also requires hospitals to collect data on the immigration status of patients and to regularly submit reports on the cost of care provided to illegal immigrants. As the New York Times reported, hospitals would also be required to ask patients their immigration status and report undocumented patients to the state. While immigrants could still ostensibly get care, critics say the policy would likely cause many to avoid medical care out of fear.[2]

Governor Ron DeSantis announced his support for the legislation in a February proposal outlining how his administration will continue to address the border crisis.[4] He stated that Florida is persistently combatting the illegal smuggling of aliens by prohibiting municipalities from providing identification cards to illegal residents and mandating that employers only hire American citizens or individuals with legal residency status.[4]

Opponents of the bills argue that the proposed legislation would make it a crime to offer a safe haven to undocumented immigrants, and it would also increase the likelihood of racial profiling. Barragán and Soto issued a joint statement stating that the policies recently introduced by the Republican-led Florida Legislature indicate Governor DeSantis’ inclination towards instilling fear, advocating racial profiling, and harming Florida’s economy instead of assisting the Hispanic community during their challenging times.[5]

The bills backed by the Republican Presidential hopeful would result in felony charges for sheltering, hiring, and transporting undocumented immigrants, as well as requiring hospitals to ask patients their immigration status and report to the state.[0] If the proposed legislation is passed, it would become a felony to either smuggle an illegal alien or falsify employment eligibility records. In addition, voters must furnish evidence of both American citizenship and their residency in Florida.[6]

0. “Ron DeSantis aims at Florida’s undocumented immigrants with cruel laws” MSNBC, 10 Apr. 2023, https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/ron-desantis-florida-undocumented-immigrants-rcna78967

1. “Florida condemned by Latino Democrats over DeSantis backed oppressive anti-immigrant laws” AL DIA News, 13 Apr. 2023, https://aldianews.com/en/politics/policy/desantis-condemned

2. “DeSantis’ Anti-Immigrant Bills Denounced as ‘Vile and Disgusting'” Common Dreams, 11 Apr. 2023, https://www.commondreams.org/news/desantis-immigration-bill

3. “Tampa Bay organizations respond to DeSantis’ plans to crack down on illegal immigration” CBS News, 12 Apr. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/tampa/news/tampa-bay-organizations-respond-to-desantis-plans-to-crack-down-on-illegal-immigration/

4. “Florida pastors worry about immigration crackdown | WORLD” WORLD News Group, 12 Apr. 2023, https://wng.org/roundups/florida-pastors-worry-about-immigration-crackdown-1681324493

5. “Hispanic Democrats rail against DeSantis immigration crackdown” The Hill, 12 Apr. 2023, https://thehill.com/latino/3945989-hispanic-democrats-rail-against-desantis-immigration-crackdown/

6. “DeSantis Poised To Pass ‘Toughest Immigration Crackdown in the Nation'” Washington Free Beacon, 11 Apr. 2023, https://freebeacon.com/politics/desantis-poised-to-crack-down-on-illegal-immigration-in-florida/

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