Business

Immigration Bills Fight for Life in Florida

Unwelcome add-ons and political gamesmanship threaten to sink E-Verify measure
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: January 18, 2011 3:55 AM
Immigrant Worker

Approximately 1 million illegal aliens now reside in Florida. | Credit : Richard Thornton - Shutterstock

Attacked by Hispanics and ridiculed by the mainstream media, Arizona-style immigration legislation appears to be dead on arrival in Tallahassee this year.

Meanwhile, a different approach that would give skittish Republicans political cover has emerged. The only question is: Will GOP leaders let it pass?

The Florida Citizens Employment Protection Act would mandate that all employers use the federal E-Verify program to screen prospective employees' legal status to work in this country. It also would suspend the business licenses of companies that refuse to sign an affidavit declaring they have no illegal aliens working for them.

Supporters say the Citizens Employment Protection Act avoids the legal and logistical pitfalls of racial profiling and turning local police into immigration agents. By targeting employers, the bill would effectively block illegals from the job market.

Gov. Rick Scott has already signed an executive order implementing E-Verify at all state agencies. Now, lawmakers are maneuvering to extend E-Verify to the private sector.

The E-Verify initiative is not new. Last year, the Florida House passed an E-Verify bill authored by then-Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Oviedo. HB 219 cleared the House 112-0, but was bottled up in the Senate, where  committee Chairman Jeremy Ring refused to let it come up for a hearing.

Adams has moved on to Congress, but Ring, a Democrat from Margate, is back as committee chair this year, and supporters of E-Verify are bracing for battle.

"It's not a complicated issue. We cut off the jobs, and [illegal immigrants] won't come. And those who are here will leave," says Jack Oliver, head of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN).

But in addition to Ring, immigration-control advocates face pushback from the Hispanic Caucus, including some Republicans, who say enforcement efforts jeopardize the GOP's electoral chances with Latinos.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who retired from Congress last year, told the Hispanic Leadership Network conference this month:

"If [the Republican Party] becomes perceived as an anti-immigrant party, America, being a country of immigrants, will never allow us to be the majority party."

Media pundits have parroted this line. Writing in the Orlando Sentinel on Sunday, columnist Mike Thomas took a swipe at Scott: "It's not like Mexican biologists are sneaking across the border to work for the Department of Environmental Protection."

LEGISLATIVE GAMES: BURDENING A BILL

In some respects, Republican bill minders appear to be their own worst enemies.

While Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Port St. Lucie, and Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, propose tightly focused E-Verify legislation, other Republicans are maneuvering to attach Arizona-style enforcement wording that would expose the bills to withering political crossfire.

Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, has been conducting hearings on his proposal to adopt Arizona's controversial SB 1070, and he shows no signs of backing off. (Not coincidentally, the term-limited Snyder is eyeing a run for Sheriff Bob Crowder's job in Martin County.)

But rather than looking tough on illegal immigration, an attempt to stick Arizona-style language into the Harrell-Hays bills looks more like a ploy to sink E-Verify politically.

"SB 1070 is a bill killer," FLIMEN's Oliver says.

Indeed, Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, now says he would not vote for the Snyder-like bill that he himself plans to sponsor in the Senate.

By contrast, Oliver says, "The Hispanic Caucus should support the Florida Citizens Employment Protection Act because it cannot be used in any way to racially profile people. All employers must use [E-Verify] and all employees must be screened."

Utilizing the Social Security and Homeland Security databases and accessing driver's license photos, the Florida E-Verify mandate would only apply to new hires.

If the system kicks back a name, the job applicant is given the reason and he or she has eight days to resolve the problem with Social Security or DHS.

The majority of nonconfirmed E-Verify queries involve applicants who have a Social Security card under a maiden name and have applied for a job under their married name. Other kickbacks include newly naturalized citizens who have not yet applied for a Social Security card.

E-Verify use is expanding across the country. The system has been upgraded to handle up to 60 million requests at a time, and independent audits show it has an accuracy rate exceeding 95 percent.

'RED FLAGS' WAVING OVER THE CAPITOL


Despite the conventional wisdom that Florida Republicans are "anti-immigrant," the record suggests otherwise.

In the last three years, GOP leaders have blocked 29 illegal immigration bills in committees. Only one bill, Adams' 2010 E-Verify measure, cleared the House. None emerged from the Senate.

This year, House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Republican member of the Hispanic Caucus, says E-Verify "is on the table."

Along with Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi appears amenable to expanding the use of E-Verify. And Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who last week announced he will challenge Democrat Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate in 2012, has said he's eager to see immigration legislation passed.

Still, the question remains: What kind of bill will GOP leaders allow to emerge?

State Sen. Anitere Flores, a Hispanic member, will resume hearings on immigration legislation in Tallahassee on Monday. But border-control advocates point to "red flags."

The Miami Republican is a supporter of the DREAM Act, which would grant in-state tuition to individuals who entered this country illegally before age 17. Appointed by Haridopolos to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, Flores also belongs to a Latino organization that branded the Arizona law "racist."

Business organizations ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Florida's agriculture industry claim that restrictions on the flow of cheap labor will devastate the domestic economy and send prices soaring.

But the chamber failed to derail E-Verify in Western states when it lost its challenge in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. (A decision is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.)

As for Florida's agriculture sector, Oliver cites J&J Produce of Loxahatchee. Without resorting to undocumented workers, the company uses an existing federal visa program to hire 150 Mexican nationals, along with domestic employees, to plant, harvest and ship its crops.

Philip Martin, a University of California-Davis professor, has studied the relationship between labor costs and food prices. He found that even a 40 percent increase in farm-laborer wages only increase the price of fruits and vegetables by an average of just 0.4 percent. He calculates that as a $16 annual rise in a typical family's grocery bill.

Meantime, illegal immigration imposes ever-higher costs on Florida taxpayers.

Government studies calculate that roughly 1 million illegal aliens currently reside in the state.

In 2006, the Federation for American Immigration Reform estimated that Florida taxpayers shouldered roughly $1.82 billion in expenses annually related to the schooling, medical care and incarceration of illegal immigrants.

Oliver says full use of E-Verify is supported economically and politically.

"E-Verify is business friendly," he says. Likewise, he believes that the E-Verify model is politically correct ... in a good way.

"The Hispanic Caucus should be very supportive of E-Verify because it ensures a legal labor force. Poor people of every ethnicity are the people most affected by illegal labor," he says.

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Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.


Comments (30)

Amanda Bynes
3:52AM OCT 13TH 2011
Very nice Site number one topic Thanks you..
Dissertations
Theses
Amanda Bynes
3:51AM OCT 13TH 2011
Thanks for the information. This is a wonderful post!!
Essays
Courseworks
Assignments
David Folsom
11:25AM JAN 19TH 2011
1) In a state legislature that is overwhelmingly Republican, how does a Democrat from Margate become a chairman of anything?
2) If Republicans are more concerned with capturing a group of voters than doing the right thing, they need to be replaced. At what price do they sell their souls, and our state?
ann nevile
6:26PM JAN 18TH 2011
E-verify yes; it checks everyone no racism there.
Children of illegal aliens; their problem is the responsibility of their parents. Not the American taxpayer. Cheap labor erodes the middle class who built this country. Everyone complaining about our immigration rules; ask what your country would do for Americans who enter their homeland illegally. How would Americans be treated in your country? Would we receive all the free education, health care, etc benefits you get on the backs of the citizens? You left your homeland, ask yourself why?
3:23PM JAN 18TH 2011
Who in their right mind would say a country should not enforce its laws and protect the citizens?

Ensuring only legal workers are employed is not a real difficult thing to understand.
Ed Weirdness
1:15PM JAN 18TH 2011
It's proven that of the minority of illegal aliens that actually pay any sort of taxes (No, sales taxes don't count), the amount they pay seldom covers the costs they represent to the taxpayer. It's tragic that so many politicians and bureaucrats insist on painting the issue of illegal immigration as one of racism or hate. Especially when logic and pragmatism undermine these contentions. Overpopulation, congestion, urban sprawl, crumbling infrastructure, diminishing resources, vanishing farm land and green space, lack of affordable housing, overcrowded schools and hospitals, crime, pollution, water and energy shortages, depressed wages, increased tax burdens, the balkanization of our communities, the marginalization of American workers, taxpayers and voters, the overall decline in quality of life, are all the result of unconstrained immigration and lax enforcement. Like it or not folks, too many people competing for the same limited resources is NOT sane, sustainable social, economic or environmental policy. Virtually every industrialized nation, China, Mexico, Great Britain, the European Union, Asia, the Middle East, have all adopted zero tolerance policies for illegal aliens, as well as strict enforcement and deportation policies. Further, these same nations have likewise implemented policies intended to curtail legal immigration, limiting that only to that which is prudent, that which is demonstrably necessary, only that which is readily assimilated, and above all other concerns, limited to only that which is in the best interests of their native population. It's arrogantly self serving and dangerously misguided to suggest that the United States not do likewise!
Ed Weirdness
1:14PM JAN 18TH 2011
It's proven that of the minority of illegal aliens that actually pay any sort of taxes (No, sales taxes don't count), the amount they pay seldom covers the costs they represent to the taxpayer. It's tragic that so many politicians and bureaucrats insist on painting the issue of illegal immigration as one of racism or hate. Especially when logic and pragmatism undermine these contentions. Overpopulation, congestion, urban sprawl, crumbling infrastructure, diminishing resources, vanishing farm land and green space, lack of affordable housing, overcrowded schools and hospitals, crime, pollution, water and energy shortages, depressed wages, increased tax burdens, the balkanization of our communities, the marginalization of American workers, taxpayers and voters, the overall decline in quality of life, are all the result of unconstrained immigration and lax enforcement. Like it or not folks, too many people competing for the same limited resources is NOT sane, sustainable social, economic or environmental policy. Virtually every industrialized nation, China, Mexico, Great Britain, the European Union, Asia, the Middle East, have all adopted zero tolerance policies for illegal aliens, as well as strict enforcement and deportation policies. Further, these same nations have likewise implemented policies intended to curtail legal immigration, limiting that only to that which is prudent, that which is demonstrably necessary, only that which is readily assimilated, and above all other concerns, limited to only that which is in the best interests of their native population. It's arrogantly self serving and dangerously misguided to suggest that the United States no do likewise!
Maya
10:37AM JAN 18TH 2011
Why in the world would anyone defend people breaking our law to come here illegally? It's astounding how many are OK with this.. And they think anyone who dares expect the laws to be followed is somehow un Christian, un American, un kind. It's amazing! You have it totally backwards...We have immigration laws for a reason.. A good reason..Asking them to be adhered to is NOT asking for too much. When we do not have rule of law, we have the total chaos of today.
cmfishJZabcik
6:15PM JAN 18TH 2011
True Maya. The one thing I know about chaos is that chaos begets even more chaos. Just look at Haiti. Haiti is a living example of chaos begetting more chaos.
sand
8:36AM JAN 18TH 2011
illegals should get no privielges. they pay no taxes. they go on welfare with their 11 kids in each family. they make our taxes go up.
Luis
8:55AM JAN 18TH 2011
Is Proved that this immigrants pay taxes and contribute with the comunity, if the Republican want to improve the hate policy like arizona they are going to get is another killings like Arizona, if they continue with his policy of hate hispanics, the hispanics are going to give his back for 2012..
Eddie Brown
9:39PM JAN 18TH 2011
Luis, You are a foolish Man. Please stop wasting space.
Vickie
12:33PM JAN 18TH 2011
Your name should be on top of a deportation list, and you should be stuck in a Mexican jail. Ours are tough to be sure, but they don't have to fight over broken bottles, etc. so they can eat. No container, no beans. Oh yes, you have to buy your own blanket. I know these things beause a friend visited that god forsaken country and got thrown with hardened criminals. But, they were so nice they offered to go get his money for him. Trash, 99% of the country is trash they are foisting on us to house and feed.
cmfish
9:44AM JAN 18TH 2011
WOW! Only people like you, Luis, talk of hate.

Luis sez - "the hispanics are going to give his back for 2012." I have no idea what you are saying. All I do know is that it was meant in a hateful spirit.
RepublicanConscience
8:11AM JAN 18TH 2011
We elected a legislature to get stuff done and immigration was part of it. Our new conservatives are a bunch of wimps and cook or get out of the kitchen. They are too stupid to realize it is not the Hispanic community making the noise, it is the media, the enemy of the Republicans. They are barely in office and are "hearing footsteps" and fumbling the ball. They haven't even taken a hit yet.
LDouglas
7:10AM JAN 18TH 2011
The study about the rise in labor costs and food prices is very interesting. Imagine what the 40% rise in wages would mean to our economy when most of that is likely to be circulated locally rather than sent out of the country, and at the same time reducing our tax burden. (Not just for what illegal immigrants cost us, but for what an unemployed American costs us on top of it, and what the unemployed American is not contributing.)
Even if they used our newfound tax savings and revenues to patch the budget gap, rather than reduce our taxes, at $16 extra a year at the grocery store or farm market, it's still a gain for us- and a bargain.

There will be no forgivable excuses for any of our legislators to not support the passage of a stand alone E-verify bill. It's up to us to make that clear. I'll start today...
Luis
8:58AM JAN 18TH 2011
the studies of unemployment is gived with the same population immigrant in USA so the un employment affect everyone and reflect more in the immigrant culture...
Eddie Brown
9:41PM JAN 18TH 2011
Wow, this is a funny one.
ann nevile
6:33PM JAN 18TH 2011
Luis,

Instead of spending all your time making comments, find an ENGLISH CLASS, no one can understand you
cmfish
9:47AM JAN 18TH 2011
Luis, I have no idea what you are trying to communicate. Engrish please!
Ted
5:51AM JAN 18TH 2011
Aw, that's too bad, Florida. You're a pretty state. I live in Southern California, which is largely a toilet due to unchecked illegal immigration. Head over to my rundown, crime-ridden neighborhood if you want to see what yours will look like in a dozen years or less.
tuffsheet
9:35AM JAN 18TH 2011
That's exactly correct Ted.
BM
5:48AM JAN 18TH 2011
This is amazing, that law makers would justify those who break the law! The come here and take entry level jobs in construction, landscaping, cleaning, restaurants and a variety of other jobs that young people use to do in order to not only make money but gain experience.

Then there is the term. The nanny state legislatures want to use the term illegal immigration or undocumented worker. They do not have the intestinal fortitude to call them what they are, ILLEGAL ALIENS. Pathetic, simply pathetic.
jm fay
12:02PM JAN 18TH 2011
Alot of the jobs you sited are / can be independent contract work which means no I 9 and no proof of right to work. It doesnt come under e verify either so e verify is not the panacea to stop illegals from working until we require all work to come under its provisions.
Luis
9:02AM JAN 18TH 2011
The division of poeolple is a term that the republicans get after the atacks of Arizona....and the hate of hispanics is apolicy that the legislation can not sustain....the republicans are geting a complot for exterminate all the hispanics rejecting for employment and of the life in USA because is the comunity of more grow in USA.....simply they don't like it like the black and the indians , they want eliminate the hispanics...
Paul Bellerose
10:07AM JAN 18TH 2011
Luis....We don't hate Hispanics! We don't like Hispanics who slither across the borders illegally, squeeze all the freebies from the government they can, have 15 kids (anchor babies) and never register as being here in the first place! Some of the hardest working people I have been around are Hispanics....but they need to follow the correct procedure to enter the country so they can become citizens. And flying the American Flag upside down is not a way to show us you care about our country..just shows disdain for it! If you don't like it LEAVE!
Eddie Brown
9:51PM JAN 18TH 2011
Well said. However, You are saying waaaaaayyyy more than Luis can comprehend (And I'm not only referring to the language barrier.) So it's best to just let it slide.
cmfish
9:51AM JAN 18TH 2011
Luis, please work on your prose! You engrish bad. Your hateful spirit comes out loud and clear. We here ya, Luis! You hate!
bill
7:24PM JAN 31ST 2011
How does it feel to be sold out to the likes of Luis? Can you blame the unions or democrats for Tricky Rick's lack of energy to pass this bill? Who's left? Blame the REPUBLICANS! BLAME THE CAREER LOBBYISTS WHO YOU VOTED IN!!!! They don't care if the illegals take jobs and depress wages, hey it's good for business!
Omnis
12:59AM FEB 8TH 2011
Why is everyone hatin' on the illegals. If I could make 10 times as much in Canada as I can here, I'd be on the next bus. All the money it costs for social services is due to an illegal work force. The people you should be upset with are the Floridan employers that provide a reason for the problem to start with. The problem is the guy down the street with the drywall business or the brick mason, or the painter, the roofer, the farmer....

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