TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The strictest anti-illegal immigrant legislation in the nation has gone through two vicious battles in one week. As the bill passed the Senate, it left a trail of Democratic fears in its wake.
The all-encompassing SB 1718 imposes a third-degree felony on illegal immigrants using falsified documents to gain employment and a third-degree felony for knowingly transporting undocumented immigrants.
It also requires all public businesses – and private businesses with more than 25 employees – to use E-Verify in hiring processes, an online database matching applicant information to social security and Department of Homeland Security records.
Republicans stated the bill protects citizens by preventing trafficking and smuggling across the border, pointing to a lack of federal action as the root cause.
“We have an illegal immigration crisis, to the point where some people are calling it an invasion,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) said. “Where is the incentive to come over legally when states will create IDs for them, give them jobs, free education, and free healthcare?”
Ingoglia explained that the weaknesses surrounding the southern border not only allow for an unregulated influx of migrants, but for the trafficking and rape of these immigrants, likening it to “modern day slavery”.
“There is a right way and a wrong way to come to this country, and no federal government has put an emphasis on fixing this problem,” Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) agreed. “Crossing that border is a pathway of getting fentanyl into our country; it is a pathway of human trafficking coming into our country.”
“DISINGENUOUS, INAUTHENTIC, FINANCIALLY WASTEFUL”
Democrats also acknowledged the failures of federal immigration policy, though they believe this inaction is not a state issue.
“The dehumanization of human beings in this chamber because of this bill is infuriating. It is not our role to fix immigration – all we’re doing is being political,” Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) said. “This bill doesn’t get us where we need with fixing immigration: it just penalizes people and it penalizes business.”
“Joe Biden is terrible at immigration. He is. And so was the president before him, and the president before him, and so on and so forth. It is an impossible issue to develop a bright-line rule,” Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-Hollywood) said.
Pizzo turned to the bill’s $12 million provision to fund enforcement, stating: “We’re seeing a gross explosion in the size of government. We scream about an immigration crisis, and not one of you will publicly say where illegal immigrants are at this moment: it’s disingenuous, it’s inauthentic, and it’s incredibly financially wasteful. You guys are not good with money.”
SB 1718 passed the Senate down party lines, and heads to the House for approval. If it passes in identical form, the legislation will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.