Florida Governor Signs Sweeping Anti-Immigration Bill into Law, Requiring Private Employers to Use E-Verify and Imposing Harsh Penalties for Violations

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a sweeping anti-immigration bill into law, making it one of the most far-reaching and harmful anti-immigrant measures in the country.[0] The new legislation will require private employers with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify system for new employees, beginning on July 1, 2023. The law offers a carve-out for employees who are temporary workers and independent contractors.[1] The utilization of the E-Verify system is mandatory for public agencies to authenticate the employment eligibility of a newly hired employee.

However, the bill’s less exciting provisions will have an impact on a much larger number of individuals.[2] Under SB 1718, private businesses with 25 or more employees will be required to use the federal E-Verify system to ensure that workers may legally work in the country. If a business discovers that an employee is not authorized to work, they must terminate their employment.[2] If there are several infractions within a two-year period, it could lead to the revocation of business licenses issued by the state. Licenses of businesses can be revoked based on the number of unauthorized employees they hire. Employing 1 to 10 unauthorized employees may result in a suspension period of up to 30 days, while hiring more than 50 unauthorized employees may lead to the complete revocation of all relevant licenses.

Under the legislation, local governments would be banned from contributing money to organizations that create identification cards for undocumented immigrants, and driver’s licenses issued to non-citizens in other states would be barred from use in Florida, a provision critics say may cause confusion and law enforcement profiling, especially in a diverse, visitor-filled state.[3] The legislation mandates that individuals detained on federal immigration holds must provide DNA samples to law enforcement agencies. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement would receive the samples.[4]

The 2014 law that permitted undocumented immigrants to practice law in Florida has been repealed by the new law.[5] Criminal penalties are increased for human smuggling, with third-degree felony charges imposed on anyone caught “knowingly” and “willingly” transporting anyone illegally in the country across state lines into Florida.[6] The bill also requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a DNA sample from anyone who is in custody and is subject to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement immigration detainer, even if they have not been convicted of a crime.

The bill permits the allocation of $12 million towards the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program under the Division of Emergency Management. This program is a continuation of the funding allowance that DeSantis utilized last year to transport nearly 50 asylum-seekers, primarily from Venezuela, from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, which is situated off the coast of Massachusetts. As part of the immigration bill, there is provision for the allocation of $12 million towards the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program managed by the Division of Emergency Management. This program is a continuation of the funding grant received by DeSantis last year, which enabled the transportation of around 50 asylum-seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, situated off the coast of Massachusetts, primarily comprising of individuals from Venezuela.

The bill includes a measure to tighten healthcare regulations, mandating hospitals to disclose the immigration status of patients receiving Medicare.[7] Hospitals that receive Medicaid reimbursements from the state and federal government will have to monitor the amount spent on emergency room services for undocumented immigrants.[6]

However, the bill drew heavy opposition from Democratic lawmakers and other groups that said it would hurt migrants and people who provide assistance. Opponents argued that migrants may avoid seeking necessary medical attention due to apprehensions about being interrogated about their immigration status.

According to the American Immigration Council and the Migration Policy Institute, over 20% of the population in Florida consists of immigrants. According to the institute, the bill has a significant impact as it targets over 770,000 undocumented immigrants in the state, making it one of the most detrimental and sweeping anti-immigrant laws in the nation.[0] The Migration Policy Institute reports that approximately 772,000 individuals without legal documentation reside in Florida. More than half, specifically 65%, have resided in the United States for a period of five years or longer.[2]

Furthermore, critics say the bill could “open the flood gates” of racial profiling and increase the danger for drivers across the state.[8] Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also criticized the legislation, calling it immoral and politicking. As the Biden administration prepares to lift a pandemic-era rule that could bring a surge of migrants to the southwest border, the immigration legislative package highlights the political tensions between the White House and the Republican governor as he prepares to run for president.

0. “Florida’s Anti-Immigrant Bill Will Open the “Floodgates for Racial Profiling”” Truthout, 8 May. 2023, https://truthout.org/articles/floridas-anti-immigrant-bill-will-open-the-floodgates-for-racial-profiling/

1. “DeSantis signs immigration package as southern border political tensions escalate” Miami Herald, 10 May. 2023, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/immigration/article275262456.html

2. “Florida Lawmakers Pass Immigration Crackdown, $12 Million for Migrant Relocation” Reason, 3 May. 2023, https://reason.com/2023/05/03/florida-legislature-passes-immigration-crackdown-authorizes-12-million-for-migrant-relocation

3. “Immigration bill passes at Florida House to be signed by DeSantis” Doral Family Journal, 4 May. 2023, https://doralfamilyjournal.com/immigration-bill-passes-at-florida-house-to-be-signed-by-de-santis/

4. “DeSantis signs immigration crackdown bill into law” Orlando Sentinel, 10 May. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/2023/05/10/desantis-signs-immigration-crackdown-bill-into-law

5. “Florida immigration Senate bill 1718 passes House. What’s in it?” Pensacola News Journal, 2 May. 2023, https://www.pnj.com/story/news/politics/2023/05/02/florida-immigration-senate-bill-1718-passes-house-explainer-what-you-need-to-know/70175457007/

6. “Florida illegal immigration crackdown: Bill on the way to DeSantis” Tallahassee Democrat, 2 May. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/politics/2023/05/02/florida-illegal-immigration-crackdown-bill-on-the-way-to-desantis/70174000007/

7. “‘People aren’t showing up to work,’ South Florida workers already feeling heat of immigration bill” CBS Miami, 10 May. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/people-arent-showing-up-to-work-south-florida-workers-already-feeling-heat-of-immigration-bill/

8. “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs sweeping immigration bill SB 1718 into law. Five takeaways:” Pensacola News Journal, 10 May. 2023, https://www.pnj.com/story/news/politics/2023/05/10/florida-immigration-bill-sb-1718-signed-into-law-by-desantis/70203097007

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