Under the orders of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is destroying the economic opportunities of some Floridians.
Leigh McGowan, the department’s press secretary, confirmed for Reason on Monday that the state revoked the licenses of two Florida-based companies that failed to comply with a law mandating the use of the federal E-Verify system to verify the immigration status of all workers hired after Jan. 1, 2021.
The Department of Economic Opportunity sent warning letters in December to a number of companies—including two that are not headquartered in Florida but have employees there—threatening to revoke their licenses if they do not comply with the mandate. The companies were given 30 days to submit a statement certifying that they have not hired undocumented immigrants and promise to comply with the E-Verify mandate when hiring future workers.
That 30-day deadline passed two weeks ago, and McGowan says the state has now taken action.
The department “has notified state and municipal agencies that may license these companies of their noncompliance,” McGowan wrote in an email. “In accordance with the law, these agencies must now suspend all valid licenses held by the employer.”
MDL Property Maintenance is a property management company based in Boynton Beach, Florida, while IntelyCare operates an online portal that connects registered nurses with medical facilities in the Tampa area. Both will have their licenses suspended by the Florida Department of State, Department of Revenue and Division of Business and Professional Regulation, as well as any licenses issued by the counties and municipalities in which they operate. IntelyCare will also have its license suspended by the state’s Health Care Agency.
Revoking those licenses will effectively shut down the two companies, a move that directly affects their employees, contractors and clients. Property owners and nurses will have to scramble to find a replacement for the services provided by MDL and IntelyCare. By trying to root out undocumented immigrants working for employers who agreed to pay them for their labor, DeSantis likely turned the lives of dozens of Floridians around.
The weakening is also in tension with how DeSantis promotes Florida as a land of economic opportunity. “We are No. 1 in this United States in net immigration. Florida is the No. 1 fastest-growing state. We are No. 1 in new business formation,” the governor said during his second inaugural address earlier this month, in which called his country a “promised land” for those fleeing failed policies in other countries. Why shouldn’t the same principle be applied to those fleeing other countries in search of economic opportunities?
The federal E-Verify system is supposed to be an efficient and inexpensive way for companies to verify the employment status of workers. In reality, it is a flawed system that imposes huge costs on businesses and workers. In 2016, the Department of Homeland Security estimated that compliance with the program cost employers about 13.48 million man hours per year. This is the kind of bureaucratic intrusion into the private decisions of employers and workers that conservatives would oppose in many other cases.
And, practically, it doesn’t even work properly due to some built-in weaknesses. The biggest of these, as Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute pointed out in a 2019 op-ed, is that the system verifies documents, not workers. Documents can be forged, stolen or otherwise falsified.
When it works, the E-Verify system hurts the economy, not helps it. A 2020 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the use of E-Verify produces “significant reductions in the employment of Hispanic workers” but “no evidence that domestic workers benefit.”
“Florida should not threaten employers for not complying with yet another onerous government regulation like E-Verify,” Nowrasteh says Reason in response to DeSantis’ post.
“These businesses are not accused of employing illegal immigrants,” says Nowrasteh. “They’re just accused of not running some of their new hires through E-Verify—the government’s underperforming system of excluding illegal immigrants from employment.”