Florida’s GOP-dominated bipartisan constitutional commission killed off a plan to put E-Verify on the November ballot — but did approve several ballots on minor issues, such as dog racing.
The 24-to-12 bipartisan win for business on April 16 was won by lobbyists for the state’s agriculture and construction industries, plus the Florida Chamber of Commerce. They flipped at least seven prior supporters of the E-Verify proposal, which would have required employers to use the federal E-Verify system to verify that prospective hires were allowed to work.
Business groups are worried that Americans’ wages are rising — and will rise faster if businesses can’t hire illegals via subcontractors for farming, construction, and tourist jobs.
Business advocates offered various reasons for their opposition to the proposal. A Chamber spokesman said the proposal “would have placed an ineffective federal government system into Florida’s foundational document.” One commissioner, who is a former top Democratic leader in the House, dismissed the popular proposal, saying “I don’t really see the teeth enough that this should be another paragraph on the ballot.”
Instead, the commission supported various ballots that would extend lobbying curbs on former legislators from two years to six years, and also to end greyhound racing by 2020.
The GOP’s business-first state leaders opposed the proposal even though it would spur GOP turnout in November. The Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported:
Commissioner Rich Newsome, who pushed for the verification system, said Monday the measure would solve a huge problem of undocumented workers “in a way that’s not callous.”
“We don’t have to build a wall to help stop the problem of undocumented workers and of the nightmares that creates, not just for the workers, but the legal workers and the businesses that are trying to follow the law,” Newsome said.
Newsome said the proposal would protect undocumented workers who do not have work or legal protections and would help legal workers who face “suppressed wages” because of undocumented immigrants who are willing to take less money. He also said the proposal “polls off the charts.”
Agricultural groups are promoting former Rep. Adam Putnam, now the state’s agriculture commissioner, in the GOP’s gubernatorial primary.
The E-Verify proposal was boosted by a volunteer pro-reform group, Floridians for E-Verify Now.
Despite the Florida defeat, reform advocates have made some progress is pushing E-Verify around the nation. More companies are using the system, and Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott required state employers to use the E-Verify system when hiring government workers.
According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform:
Twenty states have laws requiring at least some employers to use E-Verify. Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee mandate it for all employers. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in 2011, signed an executive order directing state agencies and their contractors to use the system.
Nationally, 2.4 million hiring sites were enrolled in the E-Verify program at the end of 2017. California, that famed sanctuary state, listed the most E-Verify-compliant hiring sites: 216,850.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported a record 9.1 million individual cases were processed during the last fiscal year. Notably, Florida ranked fourth in the country, with 454,100 E-Verify checks.
The push against immigration enforcement is echoed in other states, whether dominated by the GOP or by Democrats. For example, in Georgia, the GOP-run legislature just killed a proposal to alert federal enforcement authorities when illegal immigrants were detained in state jails. In California, in contrast, the Democrats have passed laws curbing cooperation between state officials and federal enforcement officials.