E-Verify approved (for first time) by Florida House panel
TALLAHASSEE, FLA.10/25/17-Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, works as vice chair of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, Wednesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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E-Verify requirements were approved by a Florida House panel for the first time Thursday.

The Commerce committee in a largely party line vote advanced requirements over concerns of immigrant advocates and certain industry leaders.

“This really mirrors what federal law is doing,” said Rep. Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican.

This marks the first movement for E-Verify legislation in the House, while the Senate has advanced a bill through two committees.

Byrd’s bill (HB 1265) would require private employers to verify the employment eligibility for workers.

While the most commonly discussed method for doing so is the use of the federal E-Verify system, Byrd noted employers already using the required I-9 verification system could continue doing so. That should ease cost concerns for small businesses.

“In talking to businesses and going through this process, we made it an option for private businesses, to either use E-Verify or use the I-9 process, which they should already be doing to comply with federal law,” said Byrd, who is sponsoring the bill.

But opponents of the bill remain concerned. Rep. Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat, said he’s seen research suggesting the requiring will cost a business with 10 employees another $1,200 a year.

And Rep. Al Jacquet, a Riviera Beach Democrat, considered the legislation a threat to Florida’s economy, particular to immigrants who won’t be able to get jobs.

“Every time I have spoken to my communities about putting in place more obstacles for folks to work and more obstacles for the economy, I always learn how that harms the economy here in the state of Florida,” Jacquet said.

Notably, FWD.us issued an economic study earlier this month that showed Florida could lose 253,000 jobs if requirements were put into place.

South Miami Democratic Rep. Javier Fernandez told Byrd he was concerned green-card holders could have a tougher time getting jobs if employers are required to use the federal electronic system.

“If a person is misidentified, how long does it take for them to gain employment again?” Fernandez asked.

Byrd said that would be dealt with on a “case-by-case basis.” The bill does not outline the procedure for businesses or employees to handle such cases.

But supporters said the legislation could also protect from the exploitation of undocumented workers.

Howey-in-the-Hills Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini argued during the committee hearing that implementing E-Verify would help legal workers.

“Don’t forget about the economic impact it has for the average American worker here in the third-largest state in the country. Working Floridians will benefit from this bill. This actually will help boost wages. It will improve the health of the economy for the working Floridians,” Sabatini said.

Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican, has worked to combat human trafficking and sex trafficking in Florida.

Byrd stressed the same in his closing argument for the bill.

“People are lured to this state under the guise of getting a job and then subjected to unconscionable abuse,” he said. “Forced labor equates to modern day slavery.”

But several members noted a rough path may still lay ahead for the legislation. A version that has gone through two committees in the House has seen carve-outs for Agriculture inserted and later taken out.

And an alternative verification system for employees put on the Senate bill in its last committee stop left sponsor Sen. Tom Lee upset enough to say the language loosening enforcement measures for employers deserve to be vetoed.

Years of attempts to pass an E-Verify bill have failed in the Republican-led Legislature, but the push for a verification plan this year has been given a political boost by the governor. DeSantis campaigned on the issue in 2018 and would like an across-the-board E-Verify requirement for employers.

Leaders from a number of Florida industries, such as billionaire health-care executive Mike Fernandez, tomato-farming giant Paul DiMare and former Carnival Cruise Line CEO Bob Dickenson, have come together to oppose legislation that mandates use of E-Verify.

“The hospitality industry relies on immigrant labor, and just 11 percent of Carnival employees are U.S.-born. We need real solutions to fix our immigration system, but mandatory E-Verify is not that,” Dickenson said in a statement after the House committee vote Thursday.

Of the 38.9 million workers run through the E-Verify system in 2019, 98.51 percent were automatically confirmed as “work authorized,” according to a House staff analysis. Also, 0.23 percent of workers denied by the system were later found to have been authorized to work in the U.S.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


8 comments

  • larry cantrell

    March 3, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    PASS EVERIFY!!!

    • Bill Bitsche

      March 3, 2020 at 7:10 pm

      As someone that worked in the labor industry, and worked closely with temporary staffing companies…I feel that both of these laws if passed as written, are a failure for the citizens of Florida. Staffing companies are the worst source of illegal labor. And all major corporations know this, that is why every time we see an ICE/illegal workforce raid. it always falls back on a staging company. And many of those staffing companies file bankruptcy or disappear all together, only to pop up under a different name and corporation, a few months later. E-verify is a simple process that only requires a few minutes, and far less of a burden than the I-9 process. The assumes two important components: (1) That the would be employee is truly legal and processes the required forms of I.D., (2) That the employer actually complies with federal I-9 law, in getting 2 legal forms of I.D. In my experience here is what I observed. The would be employer/recruiter gets a federal I.D. # from the would be employee. They enter that number into E-Verify, and E-Verify confirms the it is a good number. At which point the person could be hired and has up to 2 weeks to provide the i-9 required 2 forms of photo I.D. In many cases the employer never follows up to assure acquisition of the I.D.s. Worse still yet, E-Verify may not, repeat not confirm verification of the provided federal I.D. #, and the recruiter tells the would be employee that they need to bring another number. Now, keep in mind that the numbers provided could be a stolen social security #, E-Verify does not provide a picture related to the number, and the system relies on the I-9 photo I.D.’s to confirm the identification of the owner/applicant. And this all goes back to the employer, legally complying with the two forms of I.D. So, to restate the obvious, if any employer is fully complying with the law, E-Verify is easier to follow, than the federally mandated I-9 process. And if you follow any employer raids/fines, the number one violation is incomplete I-9 forms, and/or related fraudulent statements. aka felonies…

  • Joseph Hubbard

    March 4, 2020 at 7:08 am

    I have had many instances of the e-verify work very efficiently versus the I-9 process. Today counterfeit SS# are getting very good so much so the employer believes it is a real legal document. Most of these fake SS# can be purchased around the major cities like Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa for around $400. I e-verified my 46 employees working for me at a private country club in Boca Raton a few years back against the wishes of my Manager and found 6 employees with forged documents that were excellent workers and people but I let them go because of the law of employing illegal aliens would result in our $29 million dollar a year operation being fined. I empathize with the people and I asked them to go through the process, get good documents and come back. Two came back the next day with different SS# and tried to get their job back but those SS# were false also. I took my oath to be a US Citizen decades ago and laws are laws in this country. I encourage all good qualified and vetted legal immigration as long as our economy can handle the influx to a certain number before fiscally and functionally we pass a tipping point. We do not need 100% uneducated, non-english speaking immigrants but trained scientists, architects, engineers, etc. with certain numbers of laborers to cover the farming and hospitality industries. Also, all H2B visas need to be tracked for returns as their visas run out, something we have been very bad at in the past.

  • Bill

    March 4, 2020 at 7:17 am

    We must have E-Verify to protect our Florida Citizens, our jobs must go to American Citizens and people who have come here Legally only period.
    Make sure we call our Senators and request them to pass E-Verify.

  • GEORGE R. FULLER

    March 4, 2020 at 8:17 am

    The Florida Legislature should be embarrassed. Florida is the only Southern state without E-Verify in place. The bills they are working on will be worthless by the time they remove the cutouts……………they are a disgusting bunch.

    • Christina Williams

      March 4, 2020 at 11:33 am

      Pass Everify Now! No exceptions!!! This has been going on far too long and Americans are suffering. We see that all around us every day.

  • Mithrond

    March 5, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Pass E-verify, Florida deserves a legal labor force.

Comments are closed.


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