Rishi Oza


By Rishi P. Oza

Recent changes in state-level immigration regulations have begun to move the immigration debate from federal level talking point to a state-level policy matter. Recently, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1718 (FL 1718), which takes effect on July 1, 2023, and is aimed at restricting the ability of undocumented individuals to work in state, while also creating employment verification requirements for Florida employers, data reporting requirements for hospitals about patients’ immigration status and quantifying the costs of uncompensated care. The law provides for criminal and civil penalties for violations of its provisions. Major sections of FL 1718 and its implications and potential impact on Florida residents and the state’s economy are being explored with a summary of those impacts below:

Employment Verification and E-Verify:

Senate Bill FL 1718 imposes employment verification requirements on Florida employers, mandating the use of E-Verify for private employers with 25 or more employees. Employers must verify the employment eligibility of new hires starting on July 1, 2023, within three business days and must maintain documents used for employment verification, including the verification issued by E-Verify for a 3-year period.

The legislation also requires employers to fire existing employees if they become aware of their ineligibility to legally work.

Beginning on July 1, 2024, state law enforcement agencies will be authorized to conduct random audits of businesses and request documentation used by employers for employment verification. Employers found to have three violations of employment verification requirements in a two-year period will be fined $1,000 a day until an employer can show compliance. Noncompliance may result in the suspension of state business licenses.

It provides criminal penalties to those who knowingly use false identification for work purposes including five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Criminalizing Transportation of Undocumented Individuals into the State of Florida:

FL 1718 introduces stringent penalties for individuals involved in knowingly and willfully transporting undocumented individuals into Florida. It classifies this act as “human smuggling” and makes any violation a felony offense with a possible term of imprisonment of 15 years. This section conceivably impacts immediate family members such as spouses and parents of minor children transporting loved ones across the state’s border. Similarly, agricultural workers and truck drivers who travel from state-to-state together or with family may also be charged.

Notably, FL 1718 does not criminalize transporting or being in a vehicle with undocumented individuals within the state, living-with, or renting to an undocumented individual.

Appropriates $12M from Florida’s General Revenue Fund to Migrant Transportation Program:

The legislation appropriates $12 million in funding from the General Revenue Fund, funded by taxpayers, for the Governor’s “unauthorized alien transport program” that allows state law enforcement agents to transport undocumented individuals to other states.

Hospital Reporting Requirements:

Under FL 1718, hospitals accepting Medicaid are required to collect information about patients’ immigration status. While patients have the option to decline answering questions about their immigration status on patient intake forms, hospitals must submit quarterly reports to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which will then compile an annual report for the Governor and Legislature. The reports will include data on uncompensated care costs and the impact on hospital funding needs.

Notably, this information will not be used to decline care or report patients’ immigration status to immigration officials.

DNA Databases:

The legislation will require adults and juveniles arrested with immigration holds to provide DNA samples.

Restrictions on Driver’s and Professional Licenses:

FL 1718 prohibits government funding for issuing identification documents to undocumented individuals, invalidates out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants, and repeals provisions allowing certain undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients, to be admitted to the Florida Bar starting on November 1, 2028.

Undoubtedly, this new Florida law represents a comprehensive effort by the state to curtail undocumented immigration. The legislation is expected to have significant consequences for the state’s economy and extensive legal challenges. With a substantial number of undocumented individuals currently in the Florida workforce, as well as the state’s long and storied history as a vacation destination, the implementation of FL 1718 is likely to affect various sectors, such as tourism, construction, agriculture, and food services businesses, as highlighted by recent studies. DeSantis’ prospects on the presidential trail notwithstanding, Florida’s push into impacting immigration policy through restrictive state measures may be a trend that will be seen more commonly across the United States.

Rishi P. Oza is Partner at Brown Immigration Law, a firm that focuses solely on immigration law; he practices in Durham. [email protected]