New Florida Laws Address Immigration, Firearms

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Employers who hire immigrants who entered the United States illegally will face harsh penalties, and firearms owners will enjoy greater freedoms in Florida starting Saturday, when 200 new laws take effect, many of which the governor Ron DeSantis will stand out in his campaign for the Republican presidential candidacy.

DeSantis, who maintains a hardline stance on immigration, has said he will finish building the wall on the border with Mexico promised by former President Donald Trump. He has engaged in political maneuvers such as sending immigrants from Texas to states run by Democrats, supposedly before they can reach Florida.

With the new employer sanctions, DeSantis will be able to show that he doesn't just talk, but has signed what his critics call the toughest state anti-immigrant law in the country. DeSantis has echoed the immigration policy of Trump, who endorsed him to win state governorship in 2018. DeSantis is now Trump's main rival for the 2024 Republican nomination.

The new law expands the verification of workers, among other measures. The governor's office attributes what it calls the border crisis to the administration of President Joe Biden.

"Any business that exploits this crisis by employing illegal aliens instead of Florida residents will be held accountable," DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said.

But in a state where major industries — tourism, agriculture and construction — rely on immigrant labor, many fear the economy will be disrupted as employers struggle to find workers beforehand. The unemployment rate in Florida is 2.6%.

Samuel Vilchez Santiago, Florida director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, said that 400,000 “undocumented immigrants” work in the state and there are far fewer applicants than jobs.

“We have an extreme lack of workers”, especially in construction, services and agriculture”, he stressed. "That's why there is a lot of fear throughout the state ... that the new law will be a disaster."

The law requires all businesses with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify program to document new hires' eligibility to work or face loss of business license or fines of $1,000 per day per employee.

It also requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to ask patients if they are US citizens or if they have legal authorization to live in the United States and voids driver's licenses issued by other states to people who entered the country without legal authorization.

On the other hand, any person authorized to carry a firearm may do so concealed in public without the need for a permit. Concealed weapons permits will continue to be issued, but those who choose not to apply will not be subject to background checks or training.

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