MIAMI -- Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos wants the state’s employers forced to use the federal government’s electronic system for confirming new hires’ immigration status, but a bill that may get voted on Monday may not include that provision.
Haridopolos wants to make it mandatory that employers use the federal government’s E-verify system, which runs the new hires’ names through federal databases to confirm whether they are U.S. citizens or have permission to work in the U.S.
Farmers and other business leaders argue it places an undue burden on employers and has too high an error rate.
Haridopolos asked Republican Sen. J.D. Alexander on Friday to present the bill to the full floor as soon as Monday. Alexander is a citrus grower from Lake Wales who has hired immigrant labor.
The Senate bill initially called for the use of the E-verify program, but several proposed amendments would allow employers to use certain driver’s licenses instead, or would exempt employers who hire seasonal workers with temporary work permits.
The Senate bill also requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest and makes it optional for corrections officers and sheriff’s deputies to be trained as immigration officers.
The House version requires use of the E-verify program and allows local police to check a person’s immigration status even if they suspect the person is in the country illegally. It requires they check the status of anyone under investigation -- though not necessarily arrested -- for a crime. Courts have blocked similar provisions in Arizona’s new immigration law.
Until Thursday, Sen. Anitere Flores had shepherded the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee. The South Florida Republican sought to water down some of the bill’s toughest language, including making the E-verify check voluntary.
“This is a severely complicated, complex issue where there are hundreds of different people that have hundreds of different opinions. There are employment provisions. There are law enforcement provisions. There are business owner provisions. And there are just individual human emotions. There are political considerations,” Flores told The Associated Press on Friday.
“To try and make that into a bill that you can get a majority of votes on in the House and the Senate is a problem.”
Haridopolos said Flores had taken the bill as far as she could, but he wanted a stronger law than she felt comfortable with.
Flores faced harsh criticism from pro-immigrant groups like America’s Voice Immigration Fund and Democracia USA for handling the bill.
They repeatedly ran ads on Spanish-language radio in Miami accusing the Cuban-American legislator of being a traitor to her community.
“It would have been easier for me to stay out of the fray, but I felt that it was imperative for our South Florida community to have a voice in the matter,” she said in a statement.
The campaign for and against the legislation has heated up in recent days. Emerald Coast Tea Party Patriots earlier this week filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security against Alexander and Flores after immigrants, some of whom were in the country illegally, participated in prayer protests during several committee meetings and visited the lawmakers at the Capitol.
The Tea Party members accused Alexander of not reporting the presence of illegal immigrants in his offices.