Anti Immigrant Florida Bill SB 1718: What To Do If You Are Caught In Political Mayhem
The US has not seen a comprehensive Immigration reform for decades. The most significant changes to the rigid immigration law last time happened during the President Obama when he implemented DACA and I 601A waiver process. But since that time, or 2012 to be precise, no new avenues for immigrants have been laid out, even though we have seen a number of break-through Immigration proposals.
Instead, several states started passing laws which are anti-immigrant, target families and already vulnerable unprotected working class. Instead of bringing a relief to essential workers, those who worked in the food industry, agricultural industry, childcare, and tourism, Florida passed the law sufficiently ousting such people (who are undocumented) from the state. There is a lot of miscommunication about the bill, so let’s see what SB 1718 it actually says.
Impact on employers (including families who employ domestic workers and childcare workers)
The bill is a multifaceted and comprehensive anti-immigration initiative with several layers. The new law targets undocumented immigrants indirectly by going after the businesses that employ them. Taking effect on July 1, 2023 the bill gives fines to Florida-based businesses that fail to implement an E-Verify government tool (if a business employs more than 25 employees). Verify is a federal system that verifies an employment eligibility of a certain worker. In addition, the business may lose their license over non-compliance.
The bill removes childcare and domestic employment opportunities for undocumented immigrants as it makes it a violation of state law for any person to knowingly employ, hire, recruit, or refer, either for themselves or on behalf of another, for private or public employment a foreign national who is not authorized to work in the United States. The bill creates progressive penalty provisions for violations that, depending on number of undocumented workers and frequency of violations, could result in revocation of an employer’s state business license.
It further provides criminal penalties ($5,000 fine plus up to five years in prison) for a person who knowingly uses a false identification document or who fraudulently uses another person’s identification document for the purpose of obtaining employment, if the person using the document is not authorized to work. Frequent examples of such usage can be found when undocumented residents are registering to work using website such as care.com or uber.
The bill SB 1718 prohibits an employer from continuing to employ an undocumented worker after obtaining knowledge that a person is or has become an undocumented worker;
- Beginning on July 1, 2023, requires employers to verify each new employee’s employment eligibility within three business days after the first day the new employee begins working for pay.
- Requires private employers with 25 or more employees to use E-Verify for all new employees and retain a copy of the documentation provided for E-Verify as well as the official verification generated E-Verify for at least three years.
- Requires employers to certify use of E-Verify on unemployment compensation or reemployment assistance system returns; public agencies also required to use the E-Verify to verify a new employee’s employment eligibility.
- Enforcement: Authorizes state law enforcement agencies to request copies of documentation relied upon by the employer for employment verification purposes.
- Beginning July 1, 2024, state law enforcement agencies are authorized to perform random audits of businesses and, if it is determined an employer is not complying with employment verification obligations, provide the employer with 30 days to cure noncompliance;
- Imposes $1,000 per day fine on employers found to have failed to use E-Verify three times in a 24-month period, until the employer provides proof that the noncompliance is cured. Noncompliance also constitutes grounds for the suspension of all state business licenses until the noncompliance is cured.
- Public agencies may not contract with a private entities unless each party, including subcontractors, registers with E-Verify. A public agency may terminate a contract if it has a good faith belief that the contracting entity knowingly violated the unauthorized employment provisions of the statute, without the termination constituting a breach of contract.
New Criminal Offense
The law made it a criminal offense to bring undocumented people into Florida punishing such persons with up to 15 years in jail. But importantly: the bill does NOT make it a crime to: live with, shelter, or rent space to family, friends, or other individuals who are undocumented; conceal, harbor, or shield from detection undocumented individuals; or transport undocumented individuals within the state.
Further, hospitals and health providers receiving Medicaid, will have to collect data on immigration status of its patients. But it is important to know that at this time, the response will not affect patient care or result in a report of the patient’s immigration status to immigration authorities. Patients may decline to answer and forms must include an option that states “decline to answer.
The bill does require the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to submit an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature containing response data by March 1st of each year as well as estimates on the costs of uncompensated care for individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States, the impact of uncompensated care on the cost or ability of hospitals to provide services to the public, and hospital funding needs.
Driver’s License Issues
FL 1718 prohibits access to Florida driver’s and professional licenses.
The law prohibits counties and municipalities from funding the issuance of identification documents to an individual who does not provide proof of lawful presence in the United States. Documents may still be issued, but no government funding is permitted.
- One will be subject to a citation in state of Florida if drives with a non-real ID compliant driver’s license. . There are currently 19 states that issue drivers licenses on this basis.
- Effective Nov. 1, 2028, repeals statutory provision allowing DACA recipients and certain other undocumented individuals to be admitted to the Florida Bar but does not affect the validity of any license to practice law issued pursuant to that subsection before November 1, 2028.
Key Industries at Risk: Agriculture, Tourism, and Construction.
Over the last month or so, numerous news outlets have speculated that the bill has caused a mass exodus of undocumented individuals and families. For all intents and purposes, that may be what the proponents of the new law intended, but some say that the long-term effects are detrimental. Add reported by the Policy Institute for Florida, some 400,000 undocumented persons were employed in major industries in Florida. These workers, although undocumented, brought in an estimated $12 billion in 2019 alone.
Lawmakers opposing the bill highlighted the adverse effects on Florida’s top industries: tourism, agriculture, and construction. COVID-19 has hampered the nationwide labor force, but Florida may be making a bad situation worse with this bill. Still, it remains to be seen how much of a decline in the working population it will cause. Business owners argue that the bill serves political motives rather than addressing the state’s needs. Rep. Soto says that Governor DeSantis is pushing the bill solely because of his presidential campaign.
What solutions undocumented residents may have?
Of course, a typical response would be to exit the state (which at this point is an obvious decision). However, if we talk about long-term solutions, one should look into such possibilities as U and T visa which can be filed for when a person is either a victim of a reported crime or labour violations (such as U or T visa), or human trafficking which can take place also when a person is subjected to severe labour violations (for a T visa one does not need a police report to qualify for status). While there is a very long wait line for U visas, there is no long wait period for T visa. Many are unaware that such violations as failure to pay for all hours worked, failure to pay overtime, coupled with threats of revealing one’s immigration status, may qualify a person for T visa status. Read more on T and U visas.
Most importantly, this is when and where Federal government and legislature must step in and resolve this absurd situation. It is not a secret that many families in the US consist of immigrants who are not-documents: parents, spouses, siblings. Under SB 1718, a family member may be charged with a crime for employing or transporting a family member without “documents”. Many or most undocumented have lived in the US for decades, contributed to the social security system, paid taxes, raised US citizens who became EMTs, teachers, doctors, lawyers, business owners. The time to act if now, and the administration together with the elected officials must address the Immigration issue now.