GOP Lawmakers Mull ‘E-Verify’ Issue

GOP Lawmakers Mull ‘E-Verify’ Issue

BY Ana Ceballos, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — A Republican lawmaker who helped Gov. Ron DeSantis deliver this spring on a key campaign promise to ban so-called sanctuary cities is non-committal about sponsoring legislation that would require businesses to check the immigration status of workers via the “E-Verify” system.

Two months ago, Sen. Joe Gruters, who doubles as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said he intended to file an E-Verify proposal. But this week, he told The News Service of Florida he is not so sure.

“I want to hear what people have to say,” Gruters said, referring to feedback he was unable to receive because of calling off a planned statewide “listening tour” on immigration. He nixed the tour after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas that appeared to target Mexican immigrants.

“I will try to make a decision soon on the tour and then will make a decision (on E-Verify),” Gruters said.

While Gruters said his hesitance is tied to the listening tour, Rep. Cord Byrd, told the News Service on Wednesday that he will champion an E-Verify bill during the 2020 legislative session. Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican who was slated to join Gruters on the listening tour, added he is polishing the legislation before filing it in the House.

During the 2019 session, Gruters and Byrd led efforts to pass a bill that banned sanctuary cities in Florida. In doing so, they delivered a major win to DeSantis, who promised during last year’s gubernatorial campaign that he would crack down on local officials who aid illegal immigration. 

In previous years, efforts to pass sanctuary city bills had gone nowhere.

After leading the way on sanctuary cities, Gruters and Byrd indicated they intended to file E-Verify legislation for the 2020 session. Such proposals in the past have been fiercely opposed by agriculture, tourism and construction interests, some of whom are big GOP political donors.

Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson said this week that any laws governing the immigration-verification system should be made at the federal level and not at the state level. But said he has not asked DeSantis to “back down” on the issue.

“Remember, there is a legislative process involved in this, too. So, we are working with the Legislature on what we think smart policy needs to be,” Wilson told reporters Wednesday after a news conference with the governor related to improving the business climate in Florida.

When the E-Verify issue stalled during the 2019 legislative session, DeSantis told reporters that he would not give up on the issue and blamed a lack of unanimity among Republican lawmakers.

During the 2020 session, in a year when Republican President Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket and immigration proposals could be used to win over voters, DeSantis’ office said he will back an E-Verify proposal.

“The governor is unwavering in his support for E-Verify. He will support legislation this session,” Meredith Beatrice, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said in a statement.

The governor supports requiring all private employers to use E-Verify for new hires, but he is not expected to fully back any bills until he reviews the detailed language of the proposals. E-Verify is a federal electronic system that checks employees’ eligibility to work in the U.S.

Under an executive order issued in 2011 by former Gov. Rick Scott, which remains in effect, state agencies and their contractors are required to verify the employment eligibility of all new employees via E-Verify. 

In the House, Byrd is ironing out details of his proposals and said he does not know if all of Florida’s private businesses would be mandated to use the system. 

“Under the umbrella of E-Verify there are a lot of nuances that we need to figure out,” Byrd said. He added that he is looking at “different proposals” that have been implemented in other states.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who Gruters recently involved in conversations about being a potential Senate bill sponsor, expressed concerns about an E-Verify mandate impacting businesses that need workers, citing a low unemployment rate in the state.

In July, there were 344,000 jobless Floridians in a workforce of 10.35 million. Those numbers translated to a 3.3. percent state unemployment rate, according to a report released last month by the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

However, Baxley said he believes in following the rule of law and supports having an immigration verification tool for the workforce.

“A lot of people would like us to file and implement E-Verify, but we need to address unemployment and workforce needs,” Baxley told the News Service.

Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, said it would be a “major disappointment” for his constituents if the GOP failed to deliver on E-Verify, which he called a “common-sense measure.”

“Passing E-Verify is the least the Florida Legislature can do to deter illegal immigration,” Sabatini told the News Service.

Sabatini added that he voted for DeSantis over former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in last year’s Republican gubernatorial primary because of the issue and hopes to see the governor be more forceful on it.

In 2018, DeSantis accused Putnam of working behind the scene with agriculture interests to dampen efforts to pass E-Verify laws. Putnam said on the campaign trail that Congress needs to come up with an immigration fix.

“Many of us supported DeSantis over Putnam because of this very issue. I believe the governor should step in and ensure this gets passed,” Sabatini said.

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6 Responses to "GOP Lawmakers Mull ‘E-Verify’ Issue"

  1. Avatar
    Snidely Whiplash   September 19, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    Wow e-verify was to be the law of the land soon after our bearded friends from the Middle East knocked down the Twin Towers. Thats 18 years ago.
    So now our elected nannies are gonna “mull” over the issue?
    Wow…if I was a betting man I would bet against it becoming law…but at least our nannies are talking about it like it’s gonna be a thing. So I give them 5 points for “mulling” over the 18 year too late e-verify.

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  2. Avatar
    Mike   September 20, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Placing “unemployment and workforce needs” in any competing priority with America’s massive illegals problem and possible national security concerns is simply wrong and cloudy thinking. America can’t whine about the increasing invasion of illegals on one hand and then offer those same illegals employment with the other hand. E-Verify should be mandatory for every employer, no matter if it’s a large corporation, neighborhood lawn mowing company, or local roofing business. Either decisively and purposefully move to discourage illegals and remove any incentive that attracts them – or don’t and stop complaining about the problem. Politicians trying to parse this issue due to worry over their own reelection chances and careers-donation money is disgusting.

    As I’ve said before in TR, if you want to truly discourage illegals from coming to America, give them no choice but to either become legal citizens or be deported. No legality, no employment. That can be accomplished by making E-Verify mandatory for all employers regardless of size, and making the penalties for non-compliance truly punishing: $250 per day per illegal hired without E-Verify – the fine retroactive to the day the illegal employee was hired. If you have 3 to 5 illegals hired illegally, that fine is doubled. Six to 10 illegals, the fine is tripled, and so on with exponentially increasing fines. Remove all employment prospects for illegals unless they become American citizens in the longstanding usual process.

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  3. Avatar
    TONY   September 20, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Well, if you wont make businesses check the immigration status of workers via the “E-Verify” system then make it where they MUST pay a $10,000.00 Fine for EACH illegal they hire and hold the Business OWNER responsible with possible Jail Time.

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Mike   September 22, 2019 at 8:50 am

    “In the House, Byrd is ironing out details of his proposals and said he does not know if ALL of Florida’s private businesses would be mandated to use the system.
    “Under the umbrella of E-Verify there are a lot of NUANCES that we need to figure out,” Byrd said. He added that he is looking at “DIFFERENT PROPOSALS” that have been implemented in other states.

    Translation of politician-speak: “We use ambiguous terms and wiggle-room words so we don’t have to do anything really concrete or effective, but we can loudly declare to the voters that we did something. In reality nothing is actually accomplished, so we can still collect campaign donation dollars and votes from both sides of the issue.”

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  5. Avatar
    Pretty Petty   September 25, 2019 at 11:15 am

    But we diverted all kinds of money to build a wall?? SMH. It’s widely known that republicans don’t really want illegals out and this proves it. Money talks and it has been evident for a long time that corporations want cheap undocumented labor rather than employing Americans at decent wages and under workplace safety requirements. ICE can’t catch ’em if their employers are hiding them….I don’t think city officials treating them humanely (sanctuary cities) is the problem. It’s the big money donors muddying up the discussion.

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  6. Avatar
    mib8   September 25, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    Another privacy violating data-base will solve everything. Yah, sure. Just like removing in 1986 the prohibition on abuse of Socialist InSecurity Numbers for other purposes in 1935, and the loop-hole riddled prohibitions in 1975; and in 1986 removing the warning on the kkkards, making the kkkards “fraud-proof” (in exchange for 1.3M, no wait, 2.5M, no wait 3.4M one-time mass amnesties) made it impossible for illegal aliens to be employed and solved the illegal alien invasion & visa over-stay problem once and for all. And that watch-list data-base stopped those Mohammedans from harming anyone in Boston, in California, in Tennessee… and coming through the USA to attack people in Canada. It’s hardly been an issue since those data-bases were created. The leftist media tell us they’re practically magical.

    My serious guesstimation is 5% effective, 85% ramped up government abuse against USA citizens, 10% not much effect. It is still & will continue to be difficult to detect employer abuse, very difficult to prosecute employers of illegal aliens (not least due to corrupt prosecutors), and then the judges will set token fines, little prison time, and then the employers, HR managers, etc. will be let out early, a few of the aliens will voluntarily leave, a token number ordered removed, more amnestied in exchange for turning state’s evidence.

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