Florida Adopts New E-Verify and Immigration Enforcement Laws for Employers
Immigration remains a contentious issue in the USA. Spirited and vitriolic debates around causes and potential solutions flourish. In a hyper-partisan atmosphere, countless illegal entrants continue arriving along the southern US border, and some states have chosen to act within their own borders. A new law in Florida mandates adopting the E-Verify system for many employers while legislating harsh penalties for employing undocumented immigrants.
The changes came into force in July 2023, representing a drastic change for a state traditionally relying on ten-thousands of migrant farm laborers. Employers in the state with foreign nationals on the payroll must understand the law and be prepared for any potential ramifications.
What Does the New Law Require?
The new Florida law, SB 1718, touches on many subjects, like invalidating specific immigrant driver’s licenses issued in other states. The legislation also forces hospitals to divulge information about the cost of care for migrants. However, some of its most sweeping changes concern employment verification. All employers in the state with 25 or more workers need to abide by these rules without delay.
According to the law, companies must use the federal E-Verify system or face civil penalties. Organizations must use E-Verify in addition to their regular paper or electronic I-9 process for all employees hired after July 1, 2023. While you don’t have to re-verify employees hired before that date, the law clarifies that if you discover that a worker is not documented, you must dismiss them immediately. Penalties exist for employers who “knowingly” hire and employ such individuals.
How Does the Law Impact Workers in Florida?
SB 1718 had an immediate chilling effect on labor in Florida even before it came into force. A months-long migration of workers out of state has occurred in sectors such as construction and agriculture. Residents in Volusia County said many migrants just left before the law was enacted. Even those who might have legal documentation chose to leave instead of inviting additional scrutiny. Consequently, some companies have voiced concerns that they may be unable to find sufficient labor, potentially creating shortages and increasing prices for the average Floridian.
What Do Employers Need to Understand?
It remains unclear how this will impact employers. Nobody can predict how the state will pursue enforcing the issue. However, it remains a law—now is the time for employers of 25+ people to apply for and adopt the E-Verify process. Doing so is free and requires that businesses agree to a specific memorandum of understanding with the federal government.
Using E-Verify has benefits beyond compliance, so some organizations may gladly embrace the change. For instance, under new rules, you can more easily process and review an I-9 for remote workers when your E-Verify process is on point. A remote I-9 is more conventional lately because increasing work-from-home opportunities in sectors such as finance or tech are less likely to see a significant impact from SB 1718.
Furthermore, E-Verify reinforces the results of document examinations you make in person—or alerts you to red flags indicating you might need to look closer. With potential penalties in Florida, including suspending your business license, any effort to streamline compliance can foster better peace of mind.
The law harms employers who employed migrant workers before the new law. An employer must fire a person without legal documents if an I-9 audit uncovers issues. Still, always remain humane — respect everyone and avoid harsh action.
Monitor State Laws for Further Changes
The consequences of the new law on Florida’s economy could be substantial. As a Florida employer, understanding and applying the E-Verify system promptly to remain compliant is advisable. The legal system seems decided on making and implementing further restrictions to combat illegal immigrants from working in the US. It’s always advised to remain abreast of the legalities surrounding migrant workers.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments