By Trent Cotney.
In an effort to tackle the challenges related to illegal immigration, on February 23, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proposed new state legislation. By announcing this ambitious plan, the likely 2024 presidential candidate declared, “Florida is a law and order state, and we won’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s Border Crisis. We will continue to take steps to protect Floridians from reckless federal open border policies.”
The proposal calls for increasing detention requirements for undocumented immigrants, closing loopholes that grant the release of illegal immigrants from ICE detention, banning local governments from providing unauthorized aliens with identification cards, and voiding out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to those living in Florida illegally. In addition, immigrant students would no longer qualify for in-state tuition, unauthorized immigrants would be prohibited from practicing law, and Florida hospitals would be required to report the costs related to caring for patients who are in the United States illegally.
The legislation also calls for increased penalties for human smuggling, which follow the recommendations of a grand jury that the Florida Supreme Court had impaneled. Those recommendations are as follows:
Another notable aspect of the proposed legislation is the expansion of E-Verify requirements. It would require all Florida employers — not just public ones — to verify employment eligibility by using E-Verify. Using false identification in the eligibility process would be a felony. And an employer that violates E-Verify requirements more than once in 24 months could have its license revoked.
Many people in the Sunshine State may see such measures as necessary and applaud them as a way to maintain their way of life. However, if this proposal becomes law, it is critical to understand how such legislation could affect otherwise law-abiding people in Florida.
For example, a well-meaning neighbor could provide shelter or other assistance to an undocumented immigrant, perhaps without inquiring about the needy person’s citizenship or immigration status. However, when misconstrued, such an act of kindness could result in a fine or a criminal record.
In addition, a small, short-staffed business could easily miss a step in the E-Verify process or not recognize a fake identification card. And if that happens too often, that company could find its livelihood threatened.
For these and other reasons, Floridians must use discretion in their dealings with the immigrant population. On the one hand, we want to be welcoming to those who try to make a home here. But on the other hand, we must use caution and ensure we are following the law.
If you have questions about using E-Verify or any other issue related to illegal immigrants, do not hesitate to consult legal counsel. An experienced employment or immigration attorney can help you understand the details of the law and how you can remain compliant.
About Trent Cotney
Trent Cotney is a partner and Construction Practice Group Leader at the law firm of Adams and Reese LLP and NRCA General Counsel. For more information, reach out to Trent at email@example.com.
The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.
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