Several southern states including Georgia and Mississippi have enacted similar laws requiring employers to check the immigration status of new hires. The state laws have become part of the national debate over immigration.
Previous efforts to get an E-Verify bill through the Florida Legislature failed, and leading Republican lawmakers were not fully behind the governor's position as the 2020 session began earlier this week.
Days before the beginning of the legislative session, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said DeSantis is "trying to fulfill one of his campaign promises."
Currently, state agencies under the director the Office of the Governor are subject to E-Verify. At least two bills to expand the regulation have been introduced in the Legislature. One would require all government agencies and contractors to use the federal system. Another version would apply to all employers in the state.
The following transcript was lightly edited for clarity. NUÑEZ: There are concerns about the corporations and hiring undocumented and how that impact Floridians that are looking for high paying and other skilled opportunities within our state.
WLRN: So is this after undocumented immigrants working in high paying skilled work in Florida?
NUÑEZ: Oh, no, I wouldn't say it is focused on that.
WLRN: How many undocumented immigrants are working in Florida? Any estimation?
NUÑEZ: I don't have those numbers, but I think ultimately his view is that this is something. It's been an ongoing issue.
WLRN: What resources will the state need to enforce E-Verify if all companies in Florida are required to use it?
NUÑEZ: I haven't seen any analysis in terms of additional resources that will be. I would assume we could probably absorb a lot of that through our existing agencies or department.
WLRN: Using the E-Verify system costs anywhere from $3 to $60 per job applicant based upon the size of the company. Who pays that? The companies?
NUÑEZ: We don'ttake lightly any additional burdens, but clearly this is a responsibility that they have.
WLRN: The governor has also talked about crime as it relates to undocumented immigration and his priority for E-Verify. He said that the system is needed to address violence by undocumented immigrants. What specifically is the administration referring to there?
NUÑEZ: I would venture to guess that there are crimes being committed in our communities by people that are here illegally.
WLRN: Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina are three states that have E-Verify in place. Florida's violent crime rate, according to FBI statistics, is lower than those three states. Is there a real problem here that E-Verify would address when it comes to violent crime in Florida?
NUÑEZ: While our violent crime rate may be lower than those states that you mentioned, any violent crime that takes place in any of our communities, under the governor's logic, something that he's concerned about. So whether it's one or 100,000, I think that's something that weighs on him and not only as a former prosecutor, but as a father.