Bill would require Florida businesses to check immigration status of new employees

Published: Jan. 15, 2019 at 1:23 PM EST
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SARASOTA (WWSB) - Florida businesses would have to use a federal database to verify the immigration status of new employees, under proposals filed in the State House and State Senate for the 2019 legislative session.

The legislation would require private and public employers and state contractors to enroll in E-Verify, an electronic federal database within the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.

The E-Verify issue has long created fights within the Republican Party. Supporters of E-verify say they want to crack down on the use of undocumented workers. However, heavy opposition comes from those in the agriculture, tourism and construction industries. Republican State Senator Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach is sponsoring this year's bill.

"Florida is one of the only states in the Southeast that currently doesn't ask our employers to use that system. As a result, we are getting a lot of illegals that come to Florida for work. They know that no one is going to check on their status when they apply for work," he argued. "You would think this would be an easy sell. You would think that everybody would be on board, because we want to make sure that everybody who is hired is a legal citizen."

Governor Ron DeSantis said during his gubernatorial campaign that he would sign E-Verify into law, if the legislature passes a bill.

The issue goes back years in Florida. Seeking to crack down on the use of undocumented workers, former Governor Rick Scott had as part of his 2010 campaign platform a requirement for all businesses in Florida to use E-Verify.

After push back from business groups supporting the agriculture industry, Scott eventually signed an executive order shortly after taking office in 2011 that requires state agencies under his direction to verify the employment eligibility of all new employees by using E-Verify.

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