Dramatic New Anti-Immigrant Florida Laws Will Impact All Floridians
By Dilip Patel
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed the Republican-controlled legislature to pass Senate Bill 1718 and he signed it into law on May 9. The new law to take effect on July 1, 2023, is aimed at restricting the ability of undocumented individuals to live or work in Florida. It dramatically enhances the ability of state law enforcement to enforce immigration laws, requires hospitals to maintain data on patients’ immigration status, mandates the use of E-Verify by Florida employers with over 25 employees, restricts access to Florida driver’s licenses (as well as State Bar licenses), and adds state civil and criminal penalties for violations of its provisions. Some of these provisions impact all Floridians, not just the undocumented. The full impact remains to be seen and we expect the laws to be challenged in court. The main provisions of interest to our readers:
The new law makes it “human smuggling” and a felony for a person to knowingly and willfully transport into Florida an individual, including a minor, whom the person knows, or reasonably should know, has entered the United States in violation of law and who has not been inspected by federal immigration authorities since entry. Transporting within the state is not covered by the law. Also, the law does not make it a crime to simply live with, shelter, or rent space to family, friends, or other individuals who are undocumented.
Effective July 1, 2023, private employers in Florida that have 25 or more employees are required to use E-Verify to verify a new employee’s employment eligibility. These employers will be required to certify on their first returns each calendar year to the tax service provider that they are in compliance with this requirement when making contributions to or reimbursing the state’s unemployment compensation or reemployment assistance system. Contractors who provide services to public agencies will also be required to use E-Verify even if they have fewer than 25 employees. As of July 1, 2024, if an employer does not use E-Verify as required under the law, there can be fines of up to $1,000 per day until the company is in compliance, as well as suspension of that company's licenses until the noncompliance is cured.
Out-of-state driver’s licenses
Driver’s licenses issued by other states that are classified by that state as being exclusively for undocumented immigrants will not be recognized as valid in the state of Florida. The term “undocumented immigrant” is not defined in the law but will require law enforcement officials to determine whether an out-of-state license has been issued exclusively to an undocumented immigrant. This will affect businesses that depend on drivers such as delivery services and trucking companies. In the case of trucking companies, they may have to check what classification drivers with licenses outside the state of Florida have to confirm that they are valid under the new law. A conviction for violation of this law could be classified as a second-degree misdemeanor with a potential penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Florida hospitals will be required to ask patients who are being admitted or registered about their immigration status. Specifically, the person registering will have to respond whether he is a U.S. citizen, lawfully present in the U.S., unlawfully present in the U.S., or decline to answer the question. The hospitals will also have a reporting requirement to several state agencies regarding the costs they expend to provide services to each of the four categories of responses. Hospitals cannot deny care based on a person’s response to this question but must maintain the data to provide to the state.
Knowingly Employing Unauthorized Persons
The new law 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. Creates escalating penalty provisions for violations that, depending on number of undocumented workers and frequency of violations, could result in complete revocation of an employer’s state business license. This is not limited to employers with more than 25 workers.
Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity will issue orders of repayment of incentives to businesses in the state if it finds that an employer has knowingly employed an unauthorized alien without verifying eligibility to work. Unauthorized alien is defined as an individual who is not authorized under federal law to be employed in the United States. If such an order is entered by the Department, a company may be put on probation for one year and obligated to report quarterly, demonstrating compliance with the requirements of the new law. Any violation within 24 months after a previous violation may lead to suspension or revocation of all licenses to that company. If the violation involves one to 10 unauthorized aliens the suspension is up to 30 days, 11 to 50 unauthorized aliens will result in a suspension up to 60 days and more than 50 unauthorized aliens will result in revocation of all applicable licenses.
Dilip Patel of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a board-certified expert on immigration law, can be reached at (813) 222-1120 or email email@example.com