National Review, November 14, 2022
Early in his first term as Florida governor, Ron DeSantis pressed the legislature to mandate universal E-Verify, the online tool run by the Department of Homeland Security that allows employers to confirm that their employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S. Unfortunately, business interests lobbied hard against it, and the bill that eventually reached the governor’s desk required E-Verify only for the public sector and its contractors. The bill was still an improvement over the status quo, and DeSantis was right to sign it. However, most private-sector employers in Florida remain able to hire illegal immigrants with little risk of punishment.
With greater political capital thanks to his smashing victory last week, DeSantis should try again for universal E-Verify. When combined with appropriate enforcement mechanisms, E-Verify is one of the most useful tools that states have to discourage illegal immigration. We know this is true because industries that hire illegal immigrants are deeply opposed to it. The Farm Bureau claims that E-Verify would have “dire impacts” because the agriculture industry would lose so many workers. Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us, a pro-immigration lobby group, warned about E-Verify’s “diminishing the size of the available labor pool” in Florida. These groups are not nearly so exercised about “drones on the border” and other empty enforcement promises. They know those don’t reduce illegal immigration, so they don’t care. They worry instead about E-Verify, which is a strong indication that E-Verify actually does work.
For the past two years, DeSantis has been searching for effective responses to the Biden border surge. Unfortunately, states are not allowed to arrest and deport illegal immigrants. They can try to bus them away — or fly them to Martha’s Vineyard — but these measures are minor at best. By contrast, a strictly enforced E-Verify requirement would help discourage illegal immigrants from coming to Florida in the first place. The policy is no panacea, and obviously the federal government must still get its act together on the border. But E-Verify would help — just ask the employers of illegal labor! Those employers would have to either increase automation or recruit some of the 2.8 million native-born Floridians of working age who are not in the labor force.
Finally, although I am no political strategist, I’d offer that mandating E-Verify seems “on brand” for a governor who has not hesitated to stand up to the business lobby when it allies with progressives. In my view, Republican leaders should happily work with industry on reducing taxes and regulation, but they should close to the door to lobbyists who insist on unlimited immigration or any other policy that is not in the national interest. E-Verify offers DeSantis an opportunity to continue modeling that approach in his second term.