DeSantis’ E-Verify proposal helps Florida workers, deprives big corporations of cheap illegal labor.

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By David Caulkett

Special to the Sun Sentinel
Jan 29, 2020

 

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to require every Sunshine State business to use E-Verify, a federal website that checks workers’ legal status. He has designated mandatory E-Verify one of his top legislative priorities. But Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) bitterly opposes his efforts, writes David Caulkett, vice president and founder of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, who supports the governor. (SCOTT KEELER/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

Florida’s legislative session just started — and it promises one of the biggest political fights in years. The topic? Illegal immigration.Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to require every Sunshine State business to use E-Verify, a federal website that checks workers’ legal status. He has designated mandatory E-Verify one of his top legislative priorities. But Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) bitterly opposes his efforts.

According to recent polling, Florida voters side with the governor by a 3:1 margin — and for good reason. Mandatory E-Verify would deprive big corporations of cheap illegal labor. Those companies would then be forced to raise wages and offer more generous benefits to Floridians, including legal immigrants.The federal government created E-Verify more than two decades ago.

Using it is a breeze. Employers simply visit the free site and enter basic information — such as workers’ names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers — that businesses already collect from the I-9 forms that every new hire fills out.

Nearly immediately, the site cross-references this information provided by the employee with records available to the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to determine whether the new hire is legally able to work.

David Caulkett is vice president and founder of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement. (Courtesy of David Caulkett)

The program is remarkably accurate. It approves 99 percent of workers within just seconds. The remaining 1 percent receive “tentative non-confirmations” — and nine in 10 of those folks are eventually found to be illegal aliens.

Unfortunately, most businesses still don’t vet their employees with E-Verify. Fewer than 10 percent of companies in Florida voluntarily use the system. And with neighboring states having E-Verify laws on the books, Florida becomes even more of a magnet for illegal workers.

The reason? When unscrupulous businesses rely on illegal labor, they can reap greater profits. U.S. citizens enjoy legal protections from exploitative practices and unsafe working conditions. Illegal workers don’t.

Often, employers get away with paying illegal workers much lower wages. Illegal aliens make 42 percent less per hour than native-born and legal-immigrant workers, according to researchers at the City University of New York. Many toil for less than minimum wage.

This illegal competition drives down pay for all workers. As Harvard economist George Borjas explains, “a 10 percent increase in the size of an education/age group due to immigrants (both legal and illegal) reduces the wages . . . of all native-born workers by 2.5 percent.” Businesses save up to $128 billion each year by employing illegal workers, according to a Borjas paper published in 2013. That figure is undoubtedly higher today.

Florida is no exception to this nation-wide phenomenon. More than 800,000 illegal immigrants live here. Many sectors that rely on these disposable, vulnerable illegal workers — especially the construction industry — have recorded slower wage growth than expected in recent years.

Any legislation must require all employers to use E-Verify. SB 1822, for example, doesn’t go far enough because it only requires public employers — not private employers — to use the federal database.

Florida is no exception to this nation-wide phenomenon. More than 800,000 illegal immigrants live here. Many sectors that rely on these disposable, vulnerable illegal workers — especially the construction industry — have recorded slower wage growth than expected in recent years.

Any legislation must require all employers to use E-Verify. SB 1822, for example, doesn’t go far enough because it only requires public employers — not private employers — to use the federal database.

Forcing all employers to use E-Verify would sharply reduce competition from illegal aliens. Several states have already implemented mandatory E-Verify policies — and within a year, their population of recently arrived illegal aliens fell by 40 percent, on average.

Such policies would open up new job opportunities for Americans. Just look what happened after federal agents raided a series of chicken processing plants in Mississippi this past August.

Following the raids — which detained some 680 illegal workers — Koch Foods held a job fair to replace the employees. Hundreds of locals, including many black Americans who have suffered decades of labor discrimination in Mississippi, applied for positions during that fair alone.

Unfortunately, Florida legislators in the pocket of Big Business lobbyists have repeatedly blocked attempts to mandate E-Verify. Galvano has already announced his opposition to this year’s E-Verify legislation, which he claims would put “additional responsibility” on business owners.

That’s nonsense. The verification process takes just seconds. And such legislation enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support. Sixty-three percent of Florida Democrats and 81 percent of Republicans support mandatory E-Verify.

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Sunshine State workers have suffered the economic consequences of illegal immigration far too long. Let’s hope the governor succeeds in his push for mandatory E-Verify.

David Caulkett is vice president and founder of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement.

 

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