Sweeping immigration bill readied for passage
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Refugees in USA
Hospital visits, hiring and allowed drivers licenses are some aspects of daily life this law would transform.

Lawmakers have readied for final passage new regulations that will put Florida among the states with the strictest rules regarding undocumented migrants.

Republicans say they were inspired to propose the bill (SB 1718) because the federal government has proved inept in keeping undocumented migrants from crossing the border.

The House sponsors, Republican Reps. Kiyan Michael and Berny Jacques swapped out the House version (HB 1617) for the Senate bill Monday, and it could garner full House approval as soon as Tuesday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has indicated support for the bill that touches on numerous aspects of daily life, including:

— Making driver’s licenses that other states issue for undocumented migrants invalid in Florida and prohibiting Florida counties and municipalities from working with nonprofits to give migrants identification cards.

— Requiring hospitals that get Medicaid funding to collect data on a patient’s immigration status.

— Requiring employers of more than 25 employees to use the E-Verify system to ensure each new employee is in this country legally.

— Upgrading penalties for those employers caught not ensuring that all employees are in the country legally, including suspension of violators’ licenses to operate.

— Criminalizing bringing undocumented immigrants into the state.

— Allocating $12 million for migrants to be moved as was done last September when the Governor jetted 48 Venezuelans from San Antonio, near the border, to Martha’s Vineyard.

The sponsors were asked if they were concerned passing a law that invalidates other states’ driver’s licenses would affect tourism from those states.

“No,” Michael replied.

Democrats have criticized the bill, saying the state is stepping into an area the federal government regulates and warned of unintended consequences.

Fearing the proposed hospital data collection, for example, Democrats argued undocumented migrants could be waiting until the last minute to get health care, making their conditions more expensive to treat. Democrats also said homeless people who have used the identification card produced through nonprofit agencies, as is done in Broward County for legions of homeless, would have that option taken away.

Democrats also argued that no longer recognizing other states’ licenses for undocumented migrants is a violation of the rule that states recognize each others’ documents.

“You all are just doing stuff, but I don’t think you’re thinking through the consequences,” said Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph, who represents the Miami area.

Nineteen amendments were proposed, including one asking that family members be allowed to drive an undocumented member without facing the felony charges called for in the bill. Individuals might have to bring a family member to an out-of-state doctor’s appointment, for example.

“Traveling across state lines with a family member is not human smuggling,” said Democratic Rep. Susan Valdés. “I just hope that you will look deep into your hearts. … Just because you’re undocumented doesn’t make you less of a family member.”

The amendment failed.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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