Despite Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ so-called commitment to crack down on the hiring of illegal aliens in Florida, a Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) spokeswoman told the Orlando Sentinel that no enforcement measures have been taken against any employers since the bill took effect on January 1, 2021.
State agencies were already required to use E-Verify under an executive order by DeSantis’ predecessor, Rick Scott. However, SB 664 requires state and local governments, their contractors and subcontractors, and private employers to use E-Verify or use an I-9 to determine the immigration status of potential employees. For any hire made after January 1, the documents must be kept on file for three years.
While the state E-Verify requirement is a good step forward, the lack of tangible enforcement for perpetrators is problematic as there is no way to ensure that illegal aliens aren’t being hired. An earlier version of the bill would have allowed DEO to randomly audit businesses to check for compliance and impose $500 fines. However, those measures were removed under pressure from big business lobbies before it was passed.
Because of this arm-twisting, the bill has faced some criticism from E-Verify advocates who seek more aggressive measures to enforce the law. Florida State Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R- Howey-in-the-Hills) said, “It’s a fake bill. It’s paper thin. It’s window dressing. It’s a bill to make it looked like we passed E-Verify in the state of Florida.”
Rep. Sabatini is a staunch supporter of a statewide E-Verify mandate. He filed a bill this year to remove the option for employers to use the I-9 document instead of E-Verify but it did not receive a hearing.
E-Verify plays a critical role in reducing unfair competition from unauthorized workers in the United States. But, such requirements must be complemented by tangible enforcement mechanisms and consequences for violators to ensure its success. The federal government refuses to secure our border and protect American workers, but if states like Florida can enact mandatory, and properly enforced, E-Verify laws, they can discourage illegal aliens from taking up residence in their states.