The Brian Mudd Show

The Brian Mudd Show

There are two sides to stories and one side to facts. That's Brian's mantra and what drives him to get beyond the headlines.Full Bio


Q&A of the Day – Are Illegal Immigrants Really Fleeing Florida?

Q&A of the Day – Are Illegal Immigrants Really Fleeing Florida?  

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.   


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Today’s Entry: Brian, everyday there are more stories about illegal immigrants, oh wait “undocumented persons”, fleeing Florida in advance of the e-verify law July 1. 1) Is there any evidence of this really being the case? 2) Do we know how many people are actually impacted?  

Bottom Line: Two good questions and I’ve got two decent answers for you. The answers are a little and sort of. I know, I know that doesn’t even sound decent, but I’ll explain what we do know and that will likely provide you with the information you’re looking for. Let’s start by once again talking about what’s actually in Florida’s new immigration law which is so often overlooked in these conversations. But first, here's one factoid that's unchanged:

  • It is unlawful under federal and state law to knowingly employ a foreign national who is not work authorized under US immigration laws. 

Here’s the crux of what’s changing with the new law effective July 1st in Florida: 

  • Private employers with 25 or more employees must use E-Verify for all new hires. 
  • “Employee” is defined as an individual filling a permanent position under the control of the employer. 
  • Penalties will be effective July 1, 2024, and the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) must notify an employer prior to the issuance of any penalty. 

And as for what those penalties will look like for employers who play fast and loose with the law... 

  • For a first violation, there will be a one year probation period and quarterly reporting to the DEO will be required. 
  • For a repeat violation within 24 months, suspension or violation of all licenses will occur, with the period of suspension being based on the number of unauthorized workers found. 
  • For three violations within 24 months, a $1,000 a day fine will apply until the violation is cured. 

And as for a would-be employee who tries to cheat the system... 

  • Knowingly using false or fraudulent documentation for the purposes of obtaining employment will be considered a third degree felony. 

Unlike Florida’s previous E-Verify laws there’s real teeth to this one as you can tell and its why so many people seem to be taking it seriously. And that takes us to your questions. So, in attempting to answer your first question, there have been wild guestimates which have been thrown all over the map. Florida Democrat Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried claimed in May the new law would cause 800,000 migrants to leave Florida. Quoting Nikki: I don’t know who is going to be doing the picking of the fields during the harvest and who is building all these new homes for everybody who is moving to our state. My knee jerk answer for Nikki would be presumably and preferably be people who aren’t breaking the law. But it’s not that easy. Here’s what we know.  

Based on data from the Migration Policy Institute there are an estimated 772,000 “unauthorized” people living in the state of Florida. So even if every illegal immigrant in Florida left, we wouldn’t meet Nikki’s number, so that’s not happening, so let’s take a look at the view of the possible and likely. There are a total estimated 455,000 employed illegal immigrants in the labor force in some capacity in Florida. So, if every illegal immigrant employed in Florida left the state that’s your number. Florida’s total labor force is 10.99 million people, meaning the illegal workforce in Florida is approximately 4% of the total workforce. In terms of where illegal immigrants most commonly work - agriculture of course and on that note... The Farmworkers Association of Florida estimates 300,000 of Florida’s agriculture workers, or approximately 60%, are illegal immigrants. That’s a big percentage for sure but this is also where your second question comes into play.  

The number of illegal immigrants that are impacted isn’t anywhere near the total number of them working for one very specific reason. The employer threshold. The original version of the Immigration bill which was proposed would have applied to all employers and employees in Florida as it didn’t specify an employee count before the new law would kick in. The dirty little secret about why the bill was amended to specify that the new E-Verify law would kick in at 25 employees is entirely due to the fact that most Florida farmers and most Florida contractors have fewer than 25 employees. I made note of this irony when covering the “Latino Protests” in West Palm Beach a few weeks ago when I said... An indeterminate number of small businesses in West Palm Beach heeded the call of a determinate number of protesters at City Hall, approximately a couple hundred, and shut down for a while midday. And while this might seem like bad business, and it is, the symbolism that as of July 1st businesses would be shut down because of Florida’s new E-Verify law, was there. Did it matter? No. Will it matter? No. The law has already been signed and takes effect July 1st. The first thing is that near as I could tell the participating businesses aren’t even subjected to the new law as it only pertains to those with 25 or more employees but why let facts get in the way of good illegal immigrant advocacy protests, right?  

And that’s the bottom line in this whole thing. The truth is that very few of even the existing illegal immigrants working in Florida will be impacted by this law based on the size of the businesses they’re working for. And the odds are that in the case of some that are, instead of relocating outside of Florida they’re liable to go to work for smaller businesses within Florida. I could envision certain businesses which are knowingly hiring illegal immigrants opting to remain under 25 employees for this reason. That’s a likely effect of this legislation. But as for the rest of it, the law is real. The law has teeth. It will have an impact, but there’s also no evidence that it’s going to be as big of a deal as it’s been made out to be. I have absolute confidence you’ll be able to buy plenty of Fresh from Florida produce July 2nd.

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