Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, is set to endorse stringent penalties and limitations targeting illegal immigration after the House approved the measure, (CS/SB 1718), with an 83-36 vote primarily along party lines on Tuesday.
The newly approved legislation enhances employment prerequisites, prohibits local governments from funding organizations that provide identification cards for undocumented immigrants, disallows driver’s licenses issued to non-citizens in other states to be used in Florida, and rescinds a 2014 law permitting undocumented immigrants to be admitted to practice law in Florida.
Critics of the bill, such as Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-Miami, argue that the legislation adds little clarity.
Key Aspects of the New Immigration Bill
The law incorporates nearly all restrictions, penalties, or limits on undocumented immigrants advocated by DeSantis, excluding an in-state tuition ban for immigrant children. The new legislation bars local governments from funding any person, entity, or organization that issues identification documents to individuals unable to prove lawful presence in the U.S. It also invalidates driver licenses and permits issued by other states solely to unauthorized immigrants within Florida.
Furthermore, specific hospitals are mandated to gather patient immigration status data upon admission or registration. If an employer is found to have knowingly employed an unauthorized alien without verifying their eligibility, the Department of Economic Opportunity is required to issue an order and demand the repayment of certain economic development incentives.
The law permits random audits of businesses suspected of employing undocumented workers and enhances criminal penalties for human smuggling. This part of the legislation was revised due to initial concerns that it could target friends or family members driving a migrant within the state. The updated legislation is now only applicable to individuals facilitating the transportation of people into Florida from foreign countries.
Businesses with 25 or more employees will need to utilize the federal E-Verify system during hiring processes, broadening a 2020 Republican-led Legislature requirement limited to public employers and contractors. Employers failing to verify their employees’ status could face suspension of their business licenses. This system plays a crucial role in immigration policy as it aims to prevent undocumented immigrants from gaining employment illegally.
IDs and Driver’s Licenses
The legislation prohibits local governments from funding organizations that issue identification cards for undocumented immigrants, and non-citizen-issued driver’s licenses are not valid in Florida. Critics worry this provision might lead to law enforcement profiling.
Hospitals receiving state and federal Medicaid reimbursements will need to record spending on undocumented immigrants in emergency rooms.
The legislation nullifies a 2014 law allowing undocumented immigrants to practice law in Florida. While DeSantis advocated for a tuition prohibition, he failed to garner sufficient support for its inclusion in the final legislation. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, acknowledged that many of the current legislators were also in office back in 2014 when, under the governorship of Rick Scott, the Florida Legislature extended in-state tuition to undocumented students, often referred to as “Dreamers.”
DeSantis, who has made illegal immigration a key focus of his administration, continually criticizes Democratic President Joe Biden’s border policy. During the bill-signing ceremony, DeSantis and others spoke from a podium labeled “Biden’s Border Crisis.” Several speakers at the event highlighted crimes committed by immigrants lacking legal status.
The DeSantis administration disclosed this week its selection of three vendors intended for use in the governor’s migrant relocation program, hinting at further relocations or flights. Contracts with these vendors are still under negotiation.
The Division of Emergency Management’s Unauthorized Alien Transport Program
The legislation authorizes a $12 million allocation for the Division of Emergency Management’s Unauthorized Alien Transport Program, a derivative of the spending allowance DeSantis used last year to transport around 50 asylum-seekers from South America from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
Immigration Demographics in Florida
Florida surpasses New York and most other states with a total of 57,816 contacts with individuals who have illegally entered the country between October and February.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported immigration from four countries, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Ukraine, as primarily driving this trend. However, Cuban nationals constitute the majority of undocumented immigrants detained, accounting for 4,398 out of the total 5,005 apprehensions this year.