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 SB 164 on Tuesday after Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, filed HB 89 last week.
The bills would require private and public employers, including 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.
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.
“Our broken immigration system is a very real problem best solved comprehensively and conclusively at the federal level rather than 50 states each seeking a patchwork of solutions,” Edie Ously, vice president of public affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an email to WJCT in response to Bean and Altman’s recently filed bills. “We look forward to working with the sponsors to help keep Florida’s businesses competitive, while insuring a lawful, safe, and productive workforce where Florida job creators are not unduly burdened.”
According to reform advocates the American Business Immigration Coalition, enacting a verification system would result in short-term job shortages in the agriculture and travel industries and cost Florida employers $4.7 billion in hiring costs and increased wages to fill them.
By Brendan Rivers and Jim Turner for wjct NEWS
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