Rep. Thad Altman
Photo by Meredith Geddings/Florida House of Representatives

A centerpiece of Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ campaign has surfaced in the Florida House. State Representative Thad Altman, Republican from Indialantic, filed House bill 89, which requires private companies, public employers and state contractors to use the electronic citizenship verification syste, E-Verify. 

“Citizens and residents who abide by the law are having the opportunity to work taken away from them,” said Representative Altman. “Hiring illegal immigrants gives some businesses a clear advantage with cheap labor, but a lot of businesses want to do this right. This is a real problem, and we have to fix it.”

E-Verify is a database created by the federal government that cross references names with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to verify residency. 

If the past is any indication, Altman faces an uphill battle winning passage of the bill. A coalition of agriculture and business groups have successfully stopped the legislation in past years because it could disrupt their ability to hire low skilled or migrant farm labor. The coalition asserts passing E-Verify could disrupt Florida’s economy. 

Altman has heard these arguments before. He filed an E-Verify bill four years ago when he served in the state Senate. 

DeSantis campaigned on passing E-Verify during the Republican Primary against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, as part of his overall immigration plan. In 2010, then gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott made E-Verify a staple of his campaign. The legislature couldn’t pass a bill so Scott signed an executive order requiring state agencies to use E-Verify. Earlier this year, the Constitutional Revision Commission also rejected a proposal that would have constitutionally required the use of E-Verify by employers. 

Other states including Alabama, Georgia and North and South Carolina have passed similar E-Verify legislation.