E-Verify “Compromise” Bills Filed In Florida
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | January 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) ran on two major proposals for true immigration reform – banning sanctuary policies and mandating that employers use E-Verify to ensure a legal workforce. The state’s historic anti-sanctuary law passed last year and after months of waiting, bills were filed in both Florida chambers just as the legislature convened its regular session on January 14. These E-Verify bills have been touted as a compromise between Governor DeSantis and Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), who publicly stated his opposition to E-Verify in December.
Currently, E-Verify in Florida is mandatory only for state agencies and state contractors. In 2011, former Governor Rick Scott (R) issued an executive order requiring its use by “agencies under the direction of the Governor.”
The two compromise bills, Senate Bill (SB) 1822 sponsored by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) and House Bill (HB) 1265 by Representative Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach), expand the executive order E-Verify. These bills:
- Make E-Verify mandatory for all public agencies not just state agencies. It also requires all contractors who contract with those public agencies to use E-Verify as well;
- Terminate all public contracts with contractors who do not use E-Verify;
- Require all private employers to verify employment eligibility of newly-hired employees by 1) using E-Verify or 2) requiring new hires to provide an identification card that complies with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 and one of the following: a United States birth certificate; a certificate of naturalization; a certificate of citizenship; an alien registration receipt card: or an I-94 stamped to indicate “employment authorized;”
- Prohibit private employers who don’t use E-Verify from bidding on public contracts;
- Make private employers immune from any liability for refusing to hire illegal aliens if the alien provided false documentation; and
- Give private employers sued for wrongful termination a rebuttable presumption that they did not knowingly hire an illegal alien if the employers either used E-Verify or collected the specified documentation.
While the bills go a long way towards protecting Floridians, they fall short of enforcement mechanisms such as fines or loss of business licenses.
Observers have noted that Republicans in Tallahassee are much more divided over the E-Verify legislation than they were over anti-sanctuary bill mostly because of big business trying to protect their supply of cheap illegal labor. The most vociferous opposition comes from the agriculture, tourism and construction industries, which have successfully killed E-Verify legislation in the past claiming that E-Verify is costly and will collapse the state’s economy. This despite the fact that E-Verify is actually free, and in 12 of the 15 states that adopted it after 2009, unemployment actually went down more than the national average.
While big business is opposed to E-Verify, Floridians support it. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at the University of North Florida in October 2019, 71 percent of Florida voters support “[r]equiring businesses in Florida to use a federal immigration database, E-Verify, to check whether their workers are eligible for employment.”
In his State of the State address, Gov. DeSantis again stressed the importance of a legal workforce to Floridians. According to Gov. DeSantis, “Lower-income workers also shouldn’t have their wages depressed by cheap foreign labor. Assuring a legal workforce through E-verify will be good for the rule of law, protect taxpayers, and place an upward pressure on the wages of Floridians who work in blue collar jobs.” He added, “We are a state that has an economy, not the other way around. And we need to make sure that our Florida citizens from all walks of life come first.”
While Gov. DeSantis didn’t outwardly reject the compromise bills, his office later noted that the governor’s “idea of an E-Verify bill would require “all private sector employees to be processed under the system.””
The Florida E-Verify bills represent a compromise but they are an improvement over the current status quo. These bills represent a good starting point. Gov. DeSantis is right to push to strengthen them.