What is the New Bill?
Governor Ron DeSantis is set to sign Senate Bil 1718 which will take effect July 1st. This bill includes many new anti-immigrant laws that will jeopardize businesses and workers alike. What does this bill mean for immigrants? Well, the bill proposes limiting social services for undocumented immigrants, allocates millions of tax dollars to DeSantis’ migrant relocation program, invalidates drivers’ licenses issued to undocumented people by other states, and requires hospitals that are funded by Medicaid to as for patients’ immigration status. Private employers with 25 or more employees will now be required to put new hires through a system called E-Verify. E-Verify is a federal online database that employers will use to confirm that their new employees are eligible to work in the U.S.
What are the Consequences?
Supporters of the bill claim that it will help reduce the influx of undocumented immigrants and provide more job opportunities to citizens and legal immigrants. Industries such as agriculture, construction and hospitality may experience significant negative impacts. These industries are dominated by immigrant workers. If these sectors experience a large loss of workers it may be difficult for them to recover and could cause negative impacts on the economy and these sectors’ abilities to create jobs. The Florida Policy Institute estimates that without these essential workers, Florida’s GDP could drop by a whopping $12.6 billion in a single year. The effects have already been felt as videos surfacing online show work sites, and farms abandoned by their workers in fear of these new bills. Employers have reported having workers question whether they should continue to show up for work.
How Will it be Enforced?
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will be enforcing this new E-Verify requirement and DeSantis has promised new harsh penalties for employers who choose to violate this new bill. The proposed penalties are a $1,000 dollar fine per day that an employer does not use the new system or employs unverified workers. For the workers themselves it will be considered a felony to use a fake ID to work. Fines for employers will only take effect once the employer has failed to use the database three or more times in a two year period. at this point the DEO will also have the ability to suspend applicable business licenses until the employer provides proof of compliance. This system has been in place in other states and has proved to be mostly unsuccessful as the DEO does not have an adequate enforcement sector to enforce these new laws.
Other new laws:
In addition to punishing employers and workers, this new law also places new restrictions on transporting undocumented immigrants. A person who is found transporting fewer than five immigrants could be charged with 3rd degree felony which means they could be sentences up to 5 years in prison per person or pay a $5,000 fine per count. These punishments get worse as the amount of immigrants being transported increases or if children are present. Some fears include the vagueness of the bill which lawyers believe could cause confusion and false arrests due to misunderstanding of the law. For example, a U.S. citizen married to an undocumented immigrant may be charged with transporting their spouse if they leave the state. This section of the bill has been hotly contested due to these shortcomings in the verbiage of the law.