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Florida Legislature Furthers Anti-Immigrant Agenda with Passage of Weakened E-Verify Legislation
Immigrant voters are watching, and will respond in November
Tallahassee, FL — Last Thursday and following Florida House approval, the Florida Senate passed SB 664, a weakened version of E-Verify. The bill is now headed to Governor DeSantis’ desk. Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, provided the following open letter:
Statement on passage of Governor DeSantis’ E-Verify Bill
By Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition
As the nation faces a global pandemic, events cancelled and travel suspended, Floridians grow increasingly nervous about the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on our state’s economy. With the long-ignored threat of sea level rise, unjust sentencing and prison conditions, and returning citizens still waiting for the restoration of their voting rights, Florida’s 60-day legislative session has a myriad of substantive and urgent issues to address.
In this fragile context, it is wrong that Governor DeSantis opted instead to use this valuable time, including the final hours of the legislative session, to bully business and members of his own Party into making Florida’s most marginalized and hard working families the enemy. His effort to mandate E-Verify, and turn a state agency into a version of Florida ICE are harmful to the Florida we all believe in; where opportunity and work are valued. In making this his number one priority, even during a state of emergency that he himself declared, DeSantis showed that his anti-immigrant, anti-Latino campaign threats were not just a ploy to get elected. The Governor of Florida is completely indifferent to the economic harm and human suffering inflicted on all, making him a true extremist, an ideological xenophobe. Even his boss, Donald Trump, doesn’t support mandating E-Verify. This reckless attack on Florida’s workforce and industry won’t be easily forgotten. Nor will the voice of Democrats and moderate Republicans who tried to bring some reason to his anti-immigrant zeal.
There was the broadest possible consensus that E-Verify was flawed, unnecessary and in fact, harmful. The largest employers of the state, mostly Republicans, denounced it, Catholics and conservative Latino Evangelicals called it immoral. Public health officials said it was not the right time and it would be dangerous to all. Most of Florida’s newspapers opined it was not good policy. Legislators whispered they didn’t want it, publicly called it “un-American,” but acknowledged they were being forced by the governor. Some acquiesced.
Thankfully, SB 664 is NOT mandatory E-Verify. The legislation will require all public employers to implement the flawed E-Verify system, an undue burden for entities already underfunded. The legislation also allows the state government full access, with no due process, to private employers’ current hiring paperwork. There are no exemptions for small businesses, rural communities, faith institutions or nonprofits that serve vulnerable communities with small or no human resource staff. However, the legislation does not mandate E-Verify for all public employers.
Last year Desantis undermined democracy by forcing local municipalities and state agencies, against their will to cooperate with ICE. This year he attempted to insert government into the hiring practices of businesses, and proposed allocating millions of taxpayer dollars into the effort, while our economy teeters.
But let’s be honest, Florida would not be the winter food basket for the nation, nor the tourist destination it is, were it not for over a million workers of various different statuses and ethnicities. The undocumented, TPS recipients, DACA, refugees, asylees– we call Florida home, have a spending power of $15B and pay $588M in taxes; but more importantly, we are human beings. Our families care for children, elders, lawns, crops, kitchens, classrooms and church halls. We are entrepreneurs. We enrich Florida economically and culturally. Working from sunup to sun down, denied even the most basic human rights and protections, not even a drivers’ license to get to work, fearful of being separated from our children. It is hypocritical to benefit from our labor, but not recognize our humanity.
Legislators of both parties pleaded from the chambers floor that what we needed was federal immigration reform. We at least agree on that. And we are working on it. The next few months are key to the future of our country and of the globe. We can and must all participate. We are loving and protecting families, defending dignity and constructing democracy day by day.
The Florida Immigrant Coalition is a statewide alliance of over 60 member organizations, including farmworkers, students, service providers, grassroots organizations and legal advocates, who come together for the fair treatment of all people.