E-Verify Plan Is Proving To Be A Heavy Lift In Tallahassee

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign vow to require Florida businesses to use federal “E-Verify” checks on the immigration status of new hires remains a tougher lift than his call for a sanctuary-city ban, which is speeding through the Legislature.

But he’s not giving up, even as he blames a lack of unanimity among Republican lawmakers for slowing the red-meat proposal that has been opposed by large farmers and tourism and construction interests.

While saying this week he’d like the proposal to advance this year, he noted he has “four years.”

“We got a lot of irons in the fire this session, we want to deliver on things that we can,” DeSantis told reporters, before adding, “This will be one I’m not going to quit on.”

A House proposal (HB 89) on E-Verify by Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, and a Senate version (SB 164) by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, have not been heard in committees. Bean’s version has been assigned to four committees, rather than the more-standard three, which typically is a sign that leaders aren’t behind the effort.

The proposed change would require private and public employers and state contractors to enroll in E-Verify, a federal database within the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

DeSantis pointed to the state’s positive job market for the lack of an outside push for E-Verify, while acknowledging the issue is largely political. With the unemployment rate at 3.4 percent, he said E-Verify might not be as high a priority as “when the jobs are scarcer.”

The E-Verify issue has long created fights within the Republican Party. Seeking to crack down on the use of undocumented workers, Gov. Rick Scott’s 2010 campaign platform included calling for all businesses in Florida to use E-Verify.

After pushback from business groups supporting the agriculture industry, Scott signed an executive order shortly after taking office in 2011 that required state agencies under his direction to verify the employment eligibility of all new employees by using E-Verify.

DeSantis last year accused his primary-election opponent, then-Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, of working behind the scenes with agriculture interests to scuttle prior efforts to enact such a law. Putnam said on the campaign trail that Florida employers “need a stable, legal workforce” and that Congress needs to come up with an immigration fix.