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DeSantis signs sweeping immigration bill in Jacksonville

 Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the state's new immigration law, surrounded by the bill's sponsors and supporters, at Miller Electric Co. in Jacksonville.
Dan Scanlan
/
WJCT News
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the state's new immigration law, surrounded by the bill's sponsors and supporters, at Miller Electric Co. in Jacksonville.

With concerns about illegal immigration intensifying, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed sweeping immigration reforms into law Wednesday at a business in Jacksonville.

DeSantis said President Joe Biden's immigration policies are causing "a huge disaster on our hands" that is only going to get a lot worse. Florida's governor has predicted that 10,000 to 15,000 immigrants will flood over the Texas/Mexico border each day when Title 42 restrictions end at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

DeSantis said Florida's new law will crack down on the smuggling of immigrants, stop municipalities from issuing ID cards to people here illegally, and ensure that employers are hiring American citizens or people in the country legally.

"We proposed strong legislation to curb illegal immigration, both deterring illegal immigrants from coming to Florida, but also holding people accountable in Florida who are involved in illegal immigration," DeSantis said. "We made that promise; we said that will going to go big, and today we deliver on that promise. Even the New York Times admitted this is the strongest legislation against illegal immigration anywhere in the country."

Joining the governor was Rep. Kiyan Michael, R-Jacksonville, who introduced the House version of the bill. Her son Brandon died in an auto accident Aug. 15, 2007, after being hit by a twice-deported immigrant with no driver's license who was on his way to buy paint for his job, she told the audience. This new bill is "making history," Michael said.

"We are taking a stand that American citizens shouldn't have to compete against employers who put their profit margins over the rights of Americans to protect our families. Our family was impacted,'" Michael said. "We are having an invasion, whether you know it or not."

Federal officials are bracing for an influx of immigrants at the Texas border with Mexico, and so are those who operate shelters, immigrant advocacy groups and city governments, NPR reported.

Tens of thousands of people are waiting in Mexico after fleeing violence, poverty and political instability all over the hemisphere. And immigrants are increasingly desperate for a chance to seek asylum in the U.S., after being effectively blocked by Title 42 restrictions — rules that allowed border patrol agents to expel migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the border restrictions lift, the Biden administration is preparing to issue new measures it hopes will discourage migrants from crossing the border illegally. Those include new processing centers in Guatemala and Colombia intended to help migrants fleeing Central and South America to find lawful ways to get into the U.S. At the same time, the administration says it will apply tougher enforcement measures for those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, including more deportations.

Speaking at Miller Electric Co. on Southpoint Parkway, DeSantis spoke of Florida's action against the increasing threats posed by illegal immigration, saying it allows Florida to lead the way in protecting Americans. The new law:

  • Requires private employers to use the E-Verify system to verify the eligibility of newly hired employees, fines employers $1,000 per day if they fail to use E-Verify and suspends the licenses of those employers until they come back into compliance.
  • Suspends licenses of employers who knowingly employ illegal aliens, and makes using a fake ID to gain employment a felony.

 Plant City widow Nikki Jones, whose husband died in a hit-and-run car crash in 2019, speaks with Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference Wednesday, May 10, 2023.
Dan Scanlan
/
WJCT News
Plant City widow Nikki Jones, whose husband died in a hit-and-run car crash in 2019, speaks with Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference Wednesday, May 10, 2023.

Plant City widow Nikki Jones, whose husband died in a hit-and-run car crash in 2019, touched on those aspects of the new bill as she spoke on Wednesday. She said the immigrant who killed her husband had multiple traffic violations, was driving without a license and should not have been in the U.S.

"Currently he is at an ICE detention facility after serving only three years," Jones said. "Now every day I have to wake up, and are we and my girls going to have my home? I am in complete support of this immigration bill because it is a start to protect our families and children."

The new bill also will:

  • Enhance penalties for human smuggling, including making knowingly transporting five or more immigrants without legal status or a single minor a second-degree felony subject to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.
  • Provide $12 million to continue the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program to relocate immigrants to sanctuary jurisdictions if they lack legal status.
  • Require hospitals to collect and report health care costs for immigrants in the country illegally.
  • Ban local governments and non-governmental organizations from issuing identification documents to people without legal status and invalidates all out-of-state driver's licenses issued exclusively to people in the U.S. illegally.


DeSantis specifically pointed to states like California that have issued driver's licenses to immigrants who had no permanent legal status.

"It makes it a felony for illegal aliens to use a fake ID to gain employment," DeSantis said. "What happens is you have some of these local governments working with private groups to generate private ID cards to be used as if that makes you legal to be here. We are not going to recognize that."

Copyright 2023 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

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