- Florida’s aggressive efforts to curb illegal immigration are being outpaced by a projected rise in the usage of social services by immigrants lacking permanent legal status.
- The State Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research predicts a trend of increasing caseloads and expenditures on undocumented immigrants for the next four years.
- Despite a 520 percent increase last year, and a projected 40 percent increase this year, Florida’s economy is expected to thrive, with low unemployment rates and a budget surplus.
Even in the face of Florida’s aggressive efforts to curb illegal immigration, the State Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) is nevertheless predicting a rising trend in the usage of Florida’s social services by immigrants lacking permanent legal status. The projected trend, which is expected to continue for the next four years, appears to be outpacing attempts by GOP lawmakers and Governor Ron DeSantis to limit unlawful immigration.
DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1718 into law this year that included a number of provisions aimed at curbing some of the lucrative perks provided to undocumented immigrants, including special driver licenses and other forms of ID. At the same time, the bill requires hospitals to collect immigration status information from patients, while also blocking economic development funds from any organization that knowingly hires undocumented workers. The law also expanded the use of E-Verify for certain employers who must validate the citizenship status of all employees.
But despite those aggressive tactics, the policy wonks who provide economic and demographic data to state lawmakers concluded it won’t be enough to stem the tide – even with the added benefit of an expected flourishing economy. A sister organization, the Social Services Estimating Conference, echoed the EDR’s forecast, predicting higher overall caseloads and expenditures on undocumented immigrants for the next four years before the situation is expected to stabilize in fiscal 2027-28. From the report:
The caseload for the Unemployed Parent program was increased significantly in the near term to account for the sharp rise in non-citizen applicant activity. While the prior conference took account of increasing activity, application rates for non-citizens since then have risen at a much higher rate than expected.
The newest projections show an expected caseload increase of about 42 percent – and that’s on top of last year’s explosion of over 520 percent last year.
Despite the rising challenges that will eat into the state budget, Florida’s economy continues to outperform national averages. The state’s unemployment rate is 2.6% as of May 2023, notably lower than the national average of 3.5%. Florida also enjoys a current surplus of around $20 billion in a $1 trillion economy, leading to one of the lowest debt per capita rates in the U.S.