Legislature passes new immigration rules ‘de-incentivizing’ illegal migration
Immagration is a sticky subject for Joe Biden. Image via AP.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill, passed over Democrats' objections.

The Legislature has passed sweeping new rules aimed at “de-incentivizing” the lure of Florida’s shores to undocumented migrants through tightening aspects of employment, health care and transportation.

House lawmakers voted 83-36 in favor of the bill over Democrats’ warnings about how it’s going to hurt an economy powered by cheap labor, cause further stress to the health care system from the undocumented who won’t seek care until it’s an expensive emergency, and create unnecessary cruelty. The Governor is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

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.

Republican Reps. Kiyan Michael and Berny Jacques swapped out the House version (HB 1617) for the Senate’s version on Monday. Michael closed on the bill with her agonizing story.

“I want to tell you about illegal immigration — what it’s done to our family,” Michael said, recalling her 21-year-old son, Brandon Randolph Michael, who was killed in 2007 when an illegal immigrant driving without a license hit and killed him. “This bill would have made a huge difference because it would have … had the opportunity to prevent the death of our child.”

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.

Statistics have shown that immigrants in the country illegally have a lower rate of criminal convictions than native-born Americans. But Michael called out the names of some individuals who have been killed by undocumented migrants.

“These are the people I rise up for,” Michael said. “It should never be that your life and your children’s lives and your family’s lives are in danger because of people who refuse to follow the law.

“The prices of illegal immigration cost us everything,” Michael added.

But Democratic Rep. Susan Valdés said she was tired of watching laws pass in the House that further demonize marginalized people.

“These are not demons or imps or extraterrestrials,” she said. “They are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.”

Republicans said the country was facing an invasion from people who didn’t go through the formal process of being vetted and screened. It’s a process that protects society as it is, they argued.

“There is nothing wrong with being sympathetic to those seeking a better life for themselves,” said Republican Rep. Joel Rudman, recalling the process that his now-wife went through when she left Great Britain to get her green card. “However, I think my friends are conflating the issue and confusing illegal immigration with legal immigration.”

Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson of Hollywood evoked the difficult decision she made in deciding to leave everything she knew when she left her native Haiti. It was not because she didn’t love her native country, but because she felt her survival was at stake.

“It is one of the hardest decisions that a person has to make because he or she does not know what lies ahead of them,” Woodson said. “It takes an incredible amount of courage to abandon everything you know for a better life.”

Still, Michael received standing applause from her fellow Republicans Representatives when she asked for support, saying, “Heaven has borders, hell has none.”

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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