Florida Legislature Passes Sweeping Restrictionist Legislation Requested by Governor DeSantis

By David North on May 4, 2023

This week the GOP-dominated Florida state legislature passed tough restrictionist legislation advocated by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Among other things, the new bill will require the state to, according to the Tampa Bay Times:

  • Toughen criminal penalties for transporting immigrants lacking permanent legal status into Florida. While the bill indicates the changes are aimed at curbing human smuggling, opponents raised the prospect of family members and groups such as churches being prosecuted for transporting immigrants into the state.
  • Require hospitals to ask patients whether they are U.S. citizens or are in the country legally. Hospitals would be required to submit reports about the responses to the state.
  • Require law enforcement agencies to take DNA samples from people being held on federal immigration detainers. The samples would be sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
  • Provide $12 million to the state Division of Emergency Management for the Unauthorized Alien Transport program, which could transport immigrants lacking permanent legal status to other states. The program would be similar to the DeSantis administration’s controversial flight last year of 49 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

I don’t quite understand the purpose of the DNA provision since it deals with federal prisoners and the federal government might not cooperate. It may be a bit of showmanship, like the flight of illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

There is also a provision in the new legislation expanding the requirement to use E-Verify in hiring to all employers of 25 or more workers; current Florida law requires E-Verify only for state agencies and their contractors.

Washington Post reporter Elizabeth Alvarez wrote a few days earlier that the combined immigrant and employer lobbies had side-lined this legislation. This did not turn out to be the case.