The Republican Party pushed the divisive issue of E-Verify closer to the finish line on Monday. The Republican Party of Florida Executive Committee passed a resolution urging the passage of a bill that will require employers to use the system to verify the employment eligibility of new hires by submitted data from an applicant’s Form I-9 attesting to their citizenship status.
According to Politico, Sen. Joe Gruters urged party leaders to endorse E-Verify, via conference call, citing the importance of standing with Governor Ron DeSantis.
“We are affirming our support for Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Gruters said on the party call. “Without passing this in a timely manner, it hurts our ability to communicate and give cover to members trying to push this through.”
The position has divided many in the Florida legislature, with GOP officials disagreeing on the benefits of E-Verify. The proposal, however, has been backed by several key Republicans, including DeSantis and Gruters.
After banning sanctuary cities last year, Gruters, who doubles as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, promised to continue to promote the rule of law in the 2020 Legislative Session. That promise was fulfilled at the end of 2019 when Gruters cosponsored hardline legislation introduced by Senator Tom Lee that would require all employers, private and public, to use the government’s E-Verify system.
Though Gruters is only a cosponsor, he has also introduced his own legislation (SB 1822) involving E-Verify. His version, a more watered-down alternative that mirrors a House proposal (HB 1265) submitted by Representative Cord Byrd, would only require government employers to use the system to check the workers’ eligibility.
Private employers would not be required to use E-Verify.
Those in favor of the legislation believe the proposal will protect against unfair job competition, wage depression, and lead to more transparency during the hiring process. Opponents, however, believe the bill will be expensive and lead more migrant workers to take jobs in other states.
On Tuesday, the Florida Democratic Party released on a statement in response to Republicans supporting E-Verify, condemning members of the party for their “loyalty” to DeSantis and Trump.
“Last night, the Florida GOP put their party over Florida’s economy and they sold out Florida businesses, immigrant communities, and their own values — all so they can pledge loyalty to the Republican Party of DeSantis and Trump,” said Juan Peñalosa, Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party.
“The Florida Republican vote to endorse e-Verify ignored all of the major voices responsible for driving our economy: the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Industries of Florida, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, immigrant communities, and small business owners. They all oppose E-Verify because it will cripple our economy. While Democrats stand with Florida businesses and immigrants, yesterday’s vote is more proof that Florida Republicans will put their Party over the people of Florida at every opportunity. Voters will remember in November.”
Republicans have yet to decide on which version of the legislation they plan to support.