MIAMI – A new Florida law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis now mandates employers to use E-Verify, a federal system to confirm job applicants’ eligibility to work in the United States.
Entrepreneurs and advocates of undocumented workers said on Thursday that the state law that went into effect this month is already impacting labor-intensive industries.
Samuel Vilchez Santiago, of the American Businesses Immigration Coalition, a bipartisan group that advocates for immigration reform, said this can hurt economic growth.
“We simply don’t have the labor force we need in order to continue growing economically,” Vilchez Santiago said referring to the need for migrant workers.
To follow the law, larger operations that have been relying on undocumented workers in sectors such as the hospitality industry, construction, and agriculture may need to find documented workers who will likely demand higher wages and benefits.
Vilchez Santiago said consumers will have to pay the price. Albert Williams, an economist with Nova Southeastern University, agreed and said the fear over the state’s enforcement of the new law has already prompted workers to find jobs in other states.
“People are getting scared to work,” Williams said about Florida.
The E-Verify mandate only applies to businesses with 25 employees or more, and the state is prepared to punish non-compliant businesses with a daily $1,000 penalty.
The Florida Policy Institute, a non-profit organization focused on economic mobility, estimates the state is home to about 400,000 undocumented workers, and migrant workers earned over $12 billion in wages just in 2019 in Florida.
“We’re letting in millions of people and we’re giving them a court date a year or two or three out, and we’re not giving them authorization to work and that just doesn’t quite make sense to me,” said Peter Dyga, of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, an association of companies in commercial construction.
Federal agencies govern immigration law and U.S. Homeland Security considers E-Verify to be a voluntary program, except for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts.
DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1718 into law in May to take effect on July 1 and with it he empowered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with the task of enforcing it.
Aside from the E-Verify mandate, the law also funded DeSantis’s migrant relocation program, established criminal penalties for transporting undocumented migrants in Florida, invalidated migrants’ use of out-of-state drivers’ licenses, and required hospitals to collect patients’ immigration status.
Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah are also among the states with E-Verify mandates.
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