TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On the heels of the passage of a new state law penalizing so-called 'sanctuary cities', Republicans in the Florida state legislature are filing legislation to mandate that Florida's employers use the E-Verify database to screen out would-be undocumented immigrant hires.
Here's 5 questions asked and answered about the newly introduced legislation, the history of similar legislation in Tallahassee, and what experts have to say about its potential effects.
1) What is E-Verify?
It's a federal database intended to aid employers in identifying undocumented immigrants who are ineligible to work in the U.S. Use of the database isn't mandatory in Florida, home to a large agricultural workforce many say overwhelmingly consists of undocumented immigrants.
2) What is the history of the legislation?
While the measure, SB 664 by Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon), has been introduced for consideration during the 2020 legislative session, identical E-Verify mandate proposals have been filed for the better part of the last decade. They've been defeated by pro-business Republicans who argue that a mandate could decimate the pool of low-wage laborers Florida's employers depend on to do jobs that native-born Americans aren't interested in doing themselves.
3) What happened during the 2019 legislative session?
Bills to require E-Verify use were on track to pass earlier this year, until Republican critics struck a deal with the legislation's sponsors to allow the sanctuary cities crackdown to pass in exchange for shelving E-Verify.
4) What do experts say about the legislation?
Addressing the Economic Club of Florida Friday, Harry Holzer - the former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor who specializes in the economics of immigration policy - admitted E-Verify is not a perfect system but, following sequential improvements, is "probably more positive than negative."
In a statement that could aid the legislation's supporters, he said "You want people to come through legal mechanisms, and I think that has to be done. I believe that has to be done much more at the workplace rather than at the border."
5) What happens next?
The bill has yet to receive a hearing, and no House companion bill has been filed. That could change, however, as the 2020 session, which begins in January, approaches.