In recent years, some Florida Republicans have campaigned hard on cracking down on undocumented immigrants – but have had little to show for their efforts at the end of each legislative session. This year, they are trying again.
Sarasota House Republican (and soon to be state Republican Party chair) Rep. Joe Gruters introduced a bill this week for the 2019 session that would prosecute anyone who has been ordered out of the country and is later found in Florida.
Brevard County Republican Rep. Thad Altman has introduced legislation that would require employers to use the E-Verify internet system to confirm whether employees are documented – a proposal that has divided Florida conservatives for years.
The business community opposes it, and agricultural interests helped defeat a similar measure during the 2011 legislative session. A similar proposal introduced during the Constitution Revision Commission process earlier this year was met with strong opposition by dozens of business leaders and ultimately dropped.
During last fall’s campaign, however, Governor-elect Ron DeSantis said he would sign such legislation if it hit his desk.
Numerous other bills Republicans have pushed in recent years to target undocumented immigrants have almost all been unsuccessful.
Most notably, a proposal to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” went down in defeat in the Florida Senate during the 2018 session. In sanctuary cities, local police are barred from helping federal authorities kick out immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally. The Florida legislation died despite the strong advocacy of former Republican Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran.
Conversely, the Florida Legislature did pass a law during the 2014 session giving students who are undocumented immigrants the opportunity to qualify for in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities. That led to several Republicans on the 2016 campaign trail pledging that, if elected, they would repeal the law. But a proposal to do that went nowhere.