House Speaker José Oliva said he is “open” to supporting an E-Verify bill that would meet the goals of Gov. Ron DeSantis, but expressed doubts about the Senate’s version of the legislation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week carved out the agriculture industry from a bill (SB 664) that would require employers to use E-Verify, a federal program designed to do immigration checks on all new hires.
Oliva told reporters on Thursday he does not agree with exempting certain businesses from the requirement. “If in fact Florida businesses are made to be a certain policing arm for a part of the government, then yes, it should be done equally,” Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said.
A House bill that currently exempts all private businesses has not yet had a committee hearing. But Rep. Coyd Byrd, the bill sponsor, told the News Service of Florida this week he does not support offering certain businesses a “sanctuary.” Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, said he plans to make changes to the private-business provision in his bill, although he would not offer details.
Oliva told reporters the House is still debating whether immigration checks “should be the function of businesses.” DeSantis vowed to mandate E-Verify for all employers during his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and has made the issue a top priority this session. The governor has made clear he does not support exemptions for private businesses.
The Republican Party of Florida has also passed a resolution backing the governor’s position, despite fierce opposition to the proposal from the state’s agriculture, tourism and construction industries, which include major Republican donors.
But, midway through the legislative session, the E-Verify effort seems to be gaining support from Republicans. “I think I am open to the idea of something passing that does not become an overburden for businesses and that helps to accomplish what I think the governor would like to accomplish,” Oliva said Thursday.