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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida Senate tees up immigration changes

Aerial view of the Florida Capitol with a road in the foreground
Chris Day
Fresh Take Florida
The Florida Capitol building on Saturday, February 15, 2020, in Tallahassee.

A bill targeting illegal immigrants is a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis. A similar House bill is positioned to go to the full chamber.

The Florida Senate on Friday could pass a bill targeting illegal immigration, including by beefing up requirements for businesses to check the immigration status of workers and requiring hospitals to collect data about whether patients are in the country legally.

The Republican-controlled Senate took up the bill (SB 1718) on Thursday and rejected amendments proposed by Democrats.

The bill is a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who frequently criticizes the federal government about undocumented immigrants coming into the country.

“The problem is that … as states, we keep on creating incentives for people to come across illegally,” bill sponsor Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said. “Until the states push back, which is what we are doing now, the federal government will never act. We are trying to force them into action.”

But Democrats said immigration is a federal issue, not a state issue.

“The sponsor talks about the Southern border,” Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, said. “He’s talking about the Southern border of the United States. Florida has no Southern border. Florida is surrounded by water. Florida only has a Northern border.”

The bill, in part, would require all businesses with 25 or more employees to use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of workers. Since 2021, such businesses have been required to use E-Verify or what are known as I-9 forms.

Among other things, the bill would require hospitals to ask patients about whether they are U.S. citizens or are in the country legally. Hospitals would be required to submit reports about the responses to the state.

A similar House bill (HB 1617) is positioned to go to the full House.

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