The passage of CS/CS/SB 1718, also known as the Immigration Law, has brought significant changes to various Florida statutes concerning unauthorized individuals residing in the state. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the key provisions of the bill and its potential impact on the community.
Understanding the Amendments
Criminalization of Human Smuggling
One of the major amendments introduced by the Immigration Law is the criminalization of human smuggling. Under this provision, knowingly and willingly transporting an individual into Florida who has entered the United States unlawfully becomes a third-degree felony. Additionally, the severity of the offense increases if the smuggling involves a minor, more than five people, or if the defendant has a prior conviction for human smuggling.
Expansion of Criminal Prosecution
The Immigration Law adds human smuggling to the list of offenses that can be prosecuted under the Florida RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) Act. This inclusion provides law enforcement agencies with stronger tools to combat organized smuggling operations.
Collaboration with Federal Agencies
To enhance immigration enforcement efforts, the Immigration Law grants authority to law enforcement agencies to share pertinent information obtained during the enforcement of relevant laws with federal immigration agencies. This collaboration aims to improve coordination between state and federal authorities in addressing immigration-related issues.
Employer Compliance and Penalties
Starting from July 1, 2023, private employers with 25 or more employees must utilize the E-Verify system for new hires. The bill retains the existing requirement for public employers and their contractors to use the E-Verify system. Employers using the I-9 Form or E-Verify system will have revised defenses, while noncompliance with the E-Verify system may lead to penalties, including daily fines and the potential suspension of employer licenses.
Unauthorized Employment and Documentation
The Immigration Law introduces penalties for employers who knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants. These penalties include quarterly reporting requirements and the suspension or revocation of employer licenses in certain circumstances. Additionally, the law criminalizes the use of false identification documents by unauthorized aliens to secure employment.
Driving Restrictions and Identification
Under the new law, individuals with driver’s licenses issued by states that exclusively provide them to undocumented immigrants will be prohibited from operating motor vehicles in Florida. Furthermore, the statute that allowed certain exemptions for undocumented immigrants regarding obtaining a Florida driver’s license has been repealed. The law also restricts counties and municipalities from issuing identification cards or documents to individuals who cannot provide proof of lawful presence in the United States.
The Immigration Law introduces various other measures, including mandatory DNA sampling for individuals detained on immigration-related grounds, inquiries about citizenship status when admitted to a Medicaid-accepting hospital, and reporting requirements for hospitals on the number of emergency department visits or admissions based on citizenship status.
In conclusion, the Immigration Law in Florida ushers in significant changes aimed at addressing unauthorized immigration matters within the state. While supporters argue that these provisions strengthen law enforcement and protect the community, critics express concerns about potential implications on vulnerable populations. As these changes take effect, it is essential for individuals and employers to familiarize themselves with the new requirements and ensure compliance with the law.
Vote: Senate 27-10; House 83-36
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