Florida Senate President Opposes E-Verify
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | December 2019
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has made enforcing our nation’s immigration laws one of his top priorities, and recent polling shows that both he and pro-enforcement policies are extremely popular across practically every demographic in the state. However, requiring the use of the federal E-Verify system by every employer to ensure a legal workforce has been dealt a setback. Recently, Florida Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) announced his opposition to E-Verify. Galvano’s opposition is borne from pandering to big business interests, protecting their supply of cheap illegal labor, especially in agriculture, tourism and construction.
In 2011, former Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order requiring E-Verify for state employees and contractors. Gov. DeSantis campaigned for the expansion of E-Verify to cover all employers and has been pushing for it at practically every opportunity. At a press conference on November 25, he stressed once more that “[i]t’s about fairness for lawful immigrants and native-born workers, and it’s about public safety[.]”
Galvano publicly stated his opposition to E-Verify on December 12, saying “[i]t is something that the Florida Senate --- or at least this administration --- does not endorse … It’s putting an additional responsibility on non-government officials.” Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Pensacola) quickly condemned Galvano’s comments as inconsistent with why the governor had been nominated and elected, tweeting: “.@GovRonDeSantis & I campaigned on E-Verify. @adamputnam opposed E-Verify for the very (sugar industry endorsed) reasons President Galvano repeats here. And we all saw how that turned out.”
Special interests in Florida have repeatedly stopped E-Verify, most recently during the Constitutional Revision Commission. Tomato grower Tony DiMare opposed E-Verify claiming that it would bring the “state’s economy to its knees.” He described DeSantis’s support for it as “disheartening,” and saying “[w]e have to hope that we can lobby against it[.]”
Legislation requiring E-Verify, Senate Bill (SB) 664, has been pre-filed for the 2020 by Sen. Tom Lee (R-Thonotosassa), and cosponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota). Lee is a former senate president himself, a moderate who was skeptical of SB 168, the anti-sanctuary law, while Gruters is more pro-enforcement,[DR1] a close DeSantis ally, and was the anti-sanctuary law’s sponsor. Lee has said he believes E-Verify “is much more central to the problem,” even than anti-sanctuary was, “because the job market is the magnet for illegal immigration[.]”
To date, the Florida House of Representatives has not yet filed an E-Verify bill for next year. Representative Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach) says he plans to file one because “illegal labor impacts the wages of everyone and it drives wages down,” adding that he’s “proud to stand with (Gov.) DeSantis in his promise to promote the rule of law and put Americans first.” House Speaker José Oliva (R-Miami Lakes), meanwhile, has remained quiet on the issue, so it is uncertain whether he might side with DeSantis or Galvano.
The legislative session starts January 14 and is scheduled to end on March 13. Floridians will have to exert maximum pressure on their lawmakers in Tallahassee if E-Verify is to have a chance of passing.