A panel of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission unanimously backed a proposal (P 29) that would require all employers in Florida to use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Employment Authorization Program, known as E-Verify, to determine the eligibility of new employees.
Commissioner Rich Newsome, an attorney from Orlando who sponsored the proposal, said the measure has widespread support from the public. However, he said the issue has failed to garner legislative support in past years because powerful special interests tied to agriculture and construction make it “impossible” to advance.
“Everybody knows why it can’t pass the Legislature despite the fact that if you polled the Republican base of the folks that are in power, it’s off the chart,” Newsome said.
Adam Blalock, representing the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, told the commission’s General Provisions Committee that if E-Verify is put in place, the agriculture industry would suffer a short-term labor shortage that would result in lost and unharvested crops.
“There must be a replacement labor for agriculture before E-Verify is established,” Blalock said.
“The federal government this year is working on legislation to better the H-2A guest worker program to try to remove some of the problems that agriculture faces to allow a more legal work force to be in the United States,” Blalock continued. “But domestic supply of agriculture workers, it’s not there to replace those who would inevitably be not able to work if E-Verify was put into place. There is just not that population of people that is willing to do the hard work to get the food on your table. And that’s not a popular opinion, but it is reality.”
Newsome said he offered a carve-out for agriculture interests that use guest-worker visas, but a number of mid-sized farmers are concerned about covering housing, transportation and health-care costs.