Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 11 signed into law Senate Bill 1718, which targets illegal immigration with tougher employment requirements, including adding some of the strongest penalties in the nation.

The legislation requires any employer with 25 or more employees use the E-Verify system, imposes enforceable penalties for those employing immigrants lacking legal work authorization and enhances penalties for human smuggling. It also prohibits local governments from issuing identification cards to immigrants lacking legal status, invalidates ID cards issued to them in other states and requires hospitals to collect and submit data on the costs of providing healthcare to them.

DeSantis and legislators are focused on addressing the significant increase in asylum seekers entering the state over the last year and a half, according to a post by David S. Adams and Scott Bettridge of law firm Cozen O’Conner.

The post noted the following requirements in the legislation:

  • The bill requires any employer with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify system for new employees beginning July 1, 2023. Failure to comply could lead to a penalty of $1,000 per day until the error is rectified (effective July 1, 2024).
  • Employers cannot continue to employ someone after obtaining constructive knowledge that an individual is in the country illegally. According to Florida Statute Section 448.09, it is unlawful to knowingly employ, hire, recruit or refer any person who does not have authorization to work through immigration laws or the attorney general of the US.
  • The bill creates penalties for employers who knowingly employ immigrants lacking legal status (effective July 1, 2024) of a $1,000 fine for the first violation and a $2,500 fine and a misdemeanor charge for the second and subsequent violations. In addition, employers can face potential suspension or revocation of all applicable state licenses and be potentially required to repay any economic development incentives received by employers from the state.
  • Out-of-state driver’s licenses and permits issued by other states exclusively to “unauthorized immigrants” will no longer be recognized in Florida. Those individuals are further prevented from obtaining a Florida driver’s license.
  • Immigrants using false identification documents will now commit a third-degree felony with a maximum of five years of prison time, a $5,000 fine and five years of probation.
  • Transporting a person living in the country illegally across state lines into Florida is also a third-degree felony.
  • There is a significant expansion of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to include immigration enforcement matters, including I-9 audits.

Cozen O’Conner advises employers in Florida to conduct an immediate assessment of their employee populations to ensure that, if required, they are registered with E-Verify; potentially conduct an internal audit of existing forms I-9 and documentation; ensure that all hiring procedures are compliant with the new requirements and that a system is in place to handle complaints and other related matters; and seek alternative solutions to an already challenging staffing environment.

Opponents of the legislations think the bill targets certain people without fixing the central problem with the country’s immigration system.

Senator Victor Torres (D-Orlando) called the bill “at best illegal and at worst inhumane.”

“Economically speaking, this a disaster for Florida’s service, agricultural and construction industries,” Torres said. “While the current system has many issues, decimating the hardworking labor force that is the backbone of these industries is not the answer. This bill will cause more shortages and increased prices for consumers.”