Florida bills would force public employers and their contractors to use E-Verify

A bill filed in the Florida House of Representatives would require state government employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check the employment eligibility of new workers. The proposal was filed on January 10 by Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, and given the official designation House Bill 1265.

Cord Byrd’s proposal is a ‘downsized’ version of Senate Bill 664, which was introduced on October 24 by Senators Tom Lee and Joe Gruters. That bill would require all public and private employers to use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) E-Verify system.

The topic of employee verification has divided Florida Republicans for years — it is popular among the GOP's conservative base but fiercely opposed by the state’s agriculture, construction and tourism industries.

With its exemption for private businesses, Byrd’s proposal stands greater chances for success in the Florida House of Representatives. If approved, HB-1265 would require every public employer, their contractors and subcontractors, to use the E-Verify system beginning in January 2021.

Cord Byrd says his bill would essentially turn an existing directive into a state mandate. An executive order signed in 2011 by then-Governor Rick Scott compelled all administration agencies to use E-Verify. Other state agencies were only "encouraged" to use the system.

The executive order did not impose penalties on violators of the directive. House Bill 1265 adds what was missing by exposing all public employers and their contractors to penalties if they fail to use the DHS verification system.

Under HB-1265, if a public employer in Florida terminates an agreement with a contractor for not using E-Verify or for hiring illegal aliens, the contractor could not be awarded a public contract in Florida for at least one year. They would also be liable for costs incurred by the public entity as a result of the contract being terminated.

E-Verify has never been seriously enforced against private businesses

All federal government agencies use E-Verify. Private employers with federal contracts or subcontracts containing the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause are required to enroll in E-Verify.

In addition to Florida, about 20 states make some public employers and state contractors use E-Verify. In 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that in the seven southern states that require businesses to use E-Verify, not a single business license had been cancelled and only Tennessee had assessed any fines.

Florida Senate Bill 1822: Verification of Employment Eligibility

On January 3, State Senator Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, submitted a proposal that is mirrored by House Bill 1265, filed by State Representative Cord Byrd.

Florida Senate Bill 1822 would require public employers to use E-Verify to confirm employment eligibility on new hires. Beginning January 1, 2021, a public employer, contractor, or subcontractor would be forbidden from entering into a contract unless each party registered with and used the DHS E-Verify system.

Private employers would also be required to verify a new hires' employment eligibility, but they would not be compelled to use E-Verify. Alternatively, the new hire could provide a photo identification card that complies with the U.S. Real ID Act of 2005, and a certified copy of one of the following: A U.S. birth certificate, a certificate of naturalization, a certificate of citizenship, an alien registration receipt card, or a U.S. immigration form I-94 stamped to indicate “employment authorized.”