Florida Business Owners Fight Immigration Verification Proposal

A wide-ranging coalition that includes a major Republican donor, cruise-line officials, agricultural interests and former pro basketball players is seeking to halt a proposed constitutional amendment that would require Florida businesses to verify the immigration status of new employees.

The state Constitution Revision Commission is expected next week to consider putting the proposal on the November ballot. But members of the Immigration Partnership & Coalition Fund, or IMPAC Fund, called Thursday for blocking the proposal, which would require Florida businesses to use a system similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Employment Authorization Program, known as E-Verify, to determine immigration-related eligibility of employees.

Fund Chairman Mike Fernandez, a major Republican donor and founder of MBF Healthcare Partners, called the proposal “highly flawed” and “anti-immigration legislation.” “We are hopeful that with the general public’s involvement and the business community’s involvement, that they (members of the commission) understand this is not an attack on what they’re doing,” said Fernandez, who was born in Cuba. “But we’re trying to stop an attack on the pro-business and free enterprises.”

The conference call was tied to the release of a report in which leaders of the fund and the American Business Immigration Coalition contended that enacting a verification system would result in short-term job shortages in the agriculture and travel industries and cost Florida employers $4.7 billion. Among other things, the report said the requirement would not stop unauthorized employment.

Paul DiMare, CEO of DiMare Distribution, known as “Mr. Tomato,” said the state already has a 35 to 40 percent shortage of farm labor across South Florida and that implementing the verification program would drive migrant workers to other states.

“Let the government sit down and fix the immigration problem so that we all have labor,” DiMare said. “Don’t be chasing what we have now, when we don’t even have enough with the illegals and legals, we don’t have enough labor in the country.”

By Jim Turner for ORLANDO WEEKLY
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