E-Verify Takes Effect in Florida
FAIR | January 2021
Florida’s new E-Verify law took effect on January 1. The E-Verify law will allow employers to quickly and easily check whether their prospective employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Prior to the enactment of this legislation, Florida had only mandated that all contractors doing business in the state were required to use E-Verify.
Governor Ron DeSantis (R) made E-Verify one of his major campaign promises when running in 2018, tweeting, “[c]heap foreign labor is not an excuse to let lawlessness prevail in the sunshine state. We want people who come LEGALLY!”
Multiple E-Verify bills were introduced prior to the 2020 legislative session, and the bills went through many twists and turns and changes over the course of the process. However, as finally passed by the House and Senate in March and signed into law by Gov. DeSantis in June, Senate Bill (SB) 664 does the following:
- requires all public employers – state, county, municipal and special districts – to use E-Verify;
- requires all public contractors to use E-Verify or lose their contracts;
- requires all recipients of state economic development incentives to use E-Verify or lose their incentive funding;
- requires private employers to either use E-Verify to ensure the employment authorization of their new hires or if they don’t use E-Verify to keep their I-9 forms with all of their employee documentation which shows their eligibility to work in the United States for three years;
- requires private employers to make all records and documents related to employment verification available on request to the Florida Attorney General (AG), Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Office of Statewide Prosecution (OSP) and their local state attorney’s office; and
- creates a process for suspending and revoking the business licenses of private employers that fail to comply.
Representative Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach), who sponsored the companion bill in the House, described the E-Verify law as “putting an emphasis on hiring Floridians and those who are lawfully in the country.”
Big businesses in Florida continued to be the major opposition to E-Verify in Florida. During the legislative process these powerful CEOs continued to claim that E-Verify is anti-jobs and will destroy Florida’s economy. But FAIR's research indicates none of these concerns are accurate: E-Verify is fast, accurate and free to both employers and the states that require it.
While FAIR would have preferred mandatory E-Verify for all employers, this new law is a significant improvement over the status quo even if it’s not comprehensive. It should on balance lead to more of a legal workforce and may provide a first step toward covering all employers in the future.