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

Florida's new immigration law and E-Verify could pose 'challenges'

Wilton Simpson speaking in front of microphones
News Service of Florida
Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said Thursday he anticipates farmers, along the construction and tourism industries, will face “challenges” due to recently signed legislation that targets illegal immigration.

Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said he’s heard reports workers failing to show up at construction sites, but said he hasn’t seen such actions.

Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said Thursday he anticipates farmers, along the construction and tourism industries, will face “challenges” due to recently signed legislation that targets illegal immigration.

But in defending the need to secure the nation’s Southern border with Mexico, Simpson added he’s yet to hear of any issues surfacing since Gov. Ron DeSantis last week signed a bill (SB 1718) that steps up requirements on businesses to check the immigration status of workers.

The law, which doesn’t go into effect until July 1, also cracks down on people who bring undocumented immigrants into Florida and requires data from hospitals on whether patients are in the country legally.

“I think that we get it as farmers and as Americans and Floridians that you cannot keep having an influx of illegal folks coming across that border, realizing the tragedies that are happening on both sides of that border when they get here,” Simpson, an egg farmer, told The News Service of Florida after addressing the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee on Thursday.

“I think this is a minimal step that you have to take,” Simpson continued, “to make sure that we're not promoting people that come from that border, that’s been raped and pillaged on one side of the border, with the fentanyl and the drugs that come to Florida, and think they can be employed.”

The law requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to check employees’ immigration status.

Simpson said he’s heard from groups that believe the changes will pose a “challenge,” especially for tourism-related businesses. Some farmers already are using the federal verification system.

Simpson also said he’s heard reports of Hispanic truckers protesting the law and workers failing to show up at construction sites, but said he hasn’t seen such actions.

“I think as people read the bill, I think as they get an understanding of what the assignments are, they're law-abiding citizens, they’re gonna follow the law,” said Simpson, a Republican who served as president of the Florida Senate from 2020-2022. “And they're going to run their business the way they have to. So, they can either complain about it or comply. And since it's state law, they're going to comply.”

DeSantis, who is expected to announce a 2024 presidential run in the coming weeks, has fiercely criticized the Biden administration’s handling of migrants entering the country from the Southern border with Mexico.

Earlier this week, DeSantis said the state will send 800 Florida National Guard troops, other law-enforcement officers and equipment to Texas to help with border control.