Florida Senate bill would suspend licenses of employers who don't use E-Verify

The Villages, Florida, November 25, 2019: Governor Ron DeSantis declares his support for making use of E-Verify by private employers in Florida mandatory.

E-Verify is a web-based system administered by the U.S. Social Security Administration and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, through which employers electronically confirm the employment eligibility of their workers.

Two prominent Florida Senators have filed a bill that would require private employers in Florida to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of every new hire. Under the proposal, private employers would lose “all applicable licenses” to operate in Florida if they fail to register with the E-Verify system.

The bill defines a license as a franchise, a permit, a certificate, an approval, a registration, a charter, or any similar form of authorization required by state law and issued by an agency for the purpose of operating a business in this state.

E-Verify in Florida is expected to be an emotionally charged issue

The bill was filed by Republican Senator Tom Lee, a former President of the Florida Senate, and Senator Joe Gruters, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. It is expected to draw heated and emotional debate during the 2020 legislative session.

The office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told the News Service of Florida in September that the Governor would support legislation mandating the system for private employers.

Similar proposals were introduced in past sessions and failed, due to fierce opposition from the agricultural, tourism and construction sectors, which include some major GOP political donors.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill in 2019 banning sanctuary cities in Florida. During debates over that legislation, Senator Tom Lee emphasized that E-Verify is a much more central issue because the job market is the magnet drawing illegal immigrants into the United States.

In a mid-December interview with The News Service of Florida, Senate President Bill Galvano, a Republican, announced his opposition to the measure. In sharp contrast, Governor DeSantis has made the proposal one of his top priorities for the new legislative session, which starts on January 14.

Florida Senate Bill 664: Verification of Employment Eligibility

SB 664, given the formal title Verification of Employment Eligibility, was filed by Senators Tom Lee and Joe Gruters on October 24. The bill was referred to the Florida Senate Committees on Judiciary, Commerce and Tourism, and Rules on November 6.