Jul 6, 2023
Groups plan legal challenge to new Florida immigration law

A group of civil rights organizations plan to challenge Florida’s new immigration law that specialty crop growers say severely threatens their ability to hire a workforce.

The law, Senate Bill 1718, went into effect July 1.

SB-1718-stampThe Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, Americans for Immigrant Justice and American Immigration Council announced they will file the federal lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 1718.

The lawsuit will be filed against Gov. Ron DeSantis on behalf of several individuals and the Florida Farmworkers Association, contending that the law violates the fundamental rights of people in the state, and undermines the cultural richness and economic contributions of immigrants, according to a news release.

The lawsuit will focus on Section 10, which criminalizes the transportation of individuals into Florida who may have entered the country without federal inspection.

Agricultural employers have focused on the expansion of E-Verify; those with more than 25 employees must use the E-Verify system, which compares information on I-9 forms filled at employment with records available to the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

In July 2024, penalties for E-Verify noncompliance go into effect, according to the ACLU of Florida:

  • If the state determines an employer failed to use E-Verify, the employers will be notified and must comply within 30 days.
  • If an employer failed to use E-Verify three times in any 24-month period, they will be charged a fine of $1,000 per day until the noncompliance is cured.
  • The state may suspend all licenses until the noncompliance is cured.

The ACLU of Florida website lists all the provisions of the law.

‘Cruel, extreme, misguided’

“Purposely designed to inflict cruelty, SB 1718 is unconstitutional and undermines our democracy,” Paul R. Chavez, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, said in the release. “The sole and exclusive power to regulate immigration policy is granted by the U.S. Constitution to the federal government, not the states. Gov. DeSantis’ attempt to create a separate, competing state-run immigration enforcement system impedes the federal government’s ability to do its job.”

Amien Kacou, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida, said the law is an “extreme act of state government overreach aimed at inciting fear and criminalizing immigrant communities.”

“This law is already inflicting long-term damage on the state for the sake of short-term partisan gains,” Kacou said in the release. “We will stand with the Constitution to affirm the rights of our communities in hopes of redirecting Florida toward a better future.”

In recent months, media have reported migrant families have been leaving Florida before the bill became law. Specialty crop growers have issued warnings of the possible effects on labor, which has already been hard to come by.

“This misguided legislation not only targets immigrants and their families, but it also jeopardizes the fabric of Florida’s communities, as well as the state’s economy,” Kate Melloy Goettel, legal director of litigation at the American Immigration Council,” said in the release. “Our lawsuit seeks to ensure the fundamental rights and dignity of every individual in the state — regardless of their immigration status.”

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