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Lawmakers could consider E-Verify requirement

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(News Service of Florida)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida businesses would have to use a federal database to verify the immigration status of new employees, under proposals filed in the House and Senate for the 2019 legislative session.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, filed the Senate version of the proposal (SB 164) on Tuesday. It 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.

Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, filed a similar measure (HB 89) last week. The 60-day legislative session begins March.

The E-Verify issue has long created fights within the Republican Party. Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis said during his gubernatorial campaign that he would sign E-Verify into law, while accusing his primary-election opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, of working behind the scenes with agriculture interests to scuttle prior efforts to enact such a law. Putnam said on the campaign trail that Florida employers “need a stable, legal workforce” and that Congress needed to come up with an immigration fix.

Earlier this year, the state Constitution Revision Commission rejected a proposal that would have asked voters in November to require businesses to use a similar system. The proposal drew heavy opposition from agriculture, tourism and construction interests, and its defeat was applauded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

The issue goes back years in Florida. Seeking to crack down on the use of undocumented workers, Gov. Rick Scott had as part of his 2010 campaign platform a requirement for all businesses in Florida to use E-Verify. After pushback from business groups supporting the agriculture industry, Scott eventually signed an executive order shortly after taking office in 2011 that required state agencies under his direction to verify the employment eligibility of all new employees by using E-Verify.