Do Great Florida Poll Numbers Mean More Immigration Victories Next Year?
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | October 2019
In 2019, Florida passed a historic anti-sanctuary law. It was a monumental accomplishment and no easy task for Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and the state legislature. But if a recent poll is even close to accurate, that could just be a first act, and 2020 could be the year the Sunshine State takes a clear nationwide lead in true immigration reform at the state level.
The poll, released on October 24 by the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at the University of North Florida, shows a widespread combination of very high personal approval for DeSantis and strong backing for positions on two key immigration issues: support for mandatory E-Verify, and opposition to drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens.
Among all 658 registered Florida voters polled, DeSantis gets an extraordinary 72 percent approval rating. This level of popularity may be unprecedented, and it’s certainly “the highest gubernatorial approval in recent history,” according to PORL director Michael Binder.
There are surely many reasons for this, but among them, it shouldn’t ever be forgotten that DeSantis vigorously campaigned on getting the state to do more in helping to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. In passing the anti-sanctuary law, he’s shown that he intends to follow through on those promises. And the poll shows Floridians would strongly favor doing even more.
In addition, according to the PORL, 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,” at the same level as they support the governor. Only 23 percent oppose E-Verify. The demographics supporting E-Verify breakdown as follows: 81 percent of Florida Republicans, 70 percent of Independents and 63 percent of Democrats.
Finally, the PORL found that only 38 percent of Floridians support giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, while 59 percent are opposed.
On October 24, Senator Tom Lee (R-Thonotosassa) filed an E-Verify bill similar to the legislation from the 2019 session. Lee’s bill is cosponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), the sponsor of the anti-sanctuary law, Florida Republican Party chairman and a close DeSantis ally. While his own support for anti-sanctuary was tepid, Sen. Lee says he believes E-Verify “is much more central to the problem, because the job market is the magnet for illegal immigration[.]”
E-Verify in Florida has been repeatedly stymied in the past by the big business lobby’s insatiable demand for cheap illegal labor and they’re already gearing up to try to stop it again. However, this legislative session, E-Verify has a better chance of passage than ever before. Gov. DeSantis’s remains committed to it and Representative Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach), the House sponsor of the anti-sanctuary law, has said he intends to file a House companion bill on E-Verify.
While there currently isn’t a bill to give drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens, Sen. David Simmons (R-Longwood) has indicated he intends to introduce one. If that happens, it will be more of a threat than previous bills because Simmons is in his final year before being term-limited – thus having fewer “political issues” – and he is also the Senate President Pro Tempore and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Immigration issues will likely be at the forefront during the upcoming legislative session. With an extremely popular governor that supports cooperation with federal immigration officers and public opinions that support his efforts, the legislature has a real opportunity to ensure that Florida passes laws in 2020 that put Floridians first and ensure the state is not a magnet for illegal immigration.