Van Esser's picture

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  by  Van Esser

Until business interests weighed in, the grassroots organization Floridians for E-Verify Now was just one vote away from placing on the 2018 ballot a state constitutional amendment that would have required the state legislature to mandate E-Verify for employers. But a coalition led by a billionaire GOP contributor waged a campaign of misinformation and outright lies that persuaded the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission to deny the measure.

Florida is unique in that every 20 years a 37-member Commission is convened to gather information on proposals to amend the state constitution. The Governor of Florida appoints 15 members, the House Speaker and Senate President each pick nine members, three members are chosen by the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Attorney General is an automatic member. In early April of 2017, the Commission began to hold hearings on a large number of proposals.

One such proposal was Proposition 29, which at the time would have enshrined in the Florida state constitution a mandate for all employers to use E-Verify. NumbersUSA members in Florida worked hard to drum up support for amendment at the Commission. They signed a petition to commissioners. They forwarded this YouTube video to family and friends to garner more signatures. They came out to testify at hearings. And they corresponded directly with commissioners.

Their efforts paid off. The amendment passed two Commission committees unanimously and the first full Commission vote 19-13. But two developments within the last month turned things around.

First, state legislators on the Commission demanded that the proposal be amended to require the state legislature to consider E-Verify legislation in lieu of the constitutional mandate. This was worrisome because, since 2007, the GOP-controlled state legislature blocked every immigration enforcement bill designed to protect American workers. And second, 70 business and political leaders, led by billionaire GOP contributor Mike Fernandez, wrote the Commission in opposition to Proposition 29. Many within the coalition came from agricultural, tourism and construction interests that benefit from the labor of illegal aliens.

The coalition wrote, “We ask that you Vote No on Proposal 29. The Proposal would be devastating and costly to Floridian businesses and workers.  Moreover, constitutionally requiring reliance on a yet to be created and untested process would open the door to discriminatory practices by employers that would harm vulnerable communities.”

Notice the words “yet to be created and untested process.” The amendment mandated E-Verify but the coalition sought to convince commissioners that it created something entirely new. They also used bogus data to scare the commissioners into believing the amendment would destroy the Florida economy.

Last night, the Commission held a vote on Proposal 6010, which would have let voters decide whether the state legislature should consider the matter. Commissioners rejected the proposal by a 12-24 vote. The vote was applauded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business interests addicted to cheap, illegal labor.

So E-Verify, one of the most successful tools available to address illegal employment, won’t be on the Florida ballot this year. And I have no doubt the state legislature will turn down proposals to mandate E-Verify next session. A number of states already mandate E-Verify but the only way to ensure that it protects all American workers is for Congress to enact federal legislation.

Updated: Tue, May 1st 2018 @ 6:25pm EDT

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