Posted on February 26, 2023

DeSantis Blasts Immigration Laws Once Popular With Florida Republicans

Matt Dixon, Politico, February 23, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis is using his sway over the Republican-dominated Legislature to urge lawmakers to repeal state laws that offered additional legal rights to undocumented immigrants, protections that less than a decade ago were popular with many Florida Republicans, including DeSantis’ own lieutenant governor.

The new proposals were outlined in an immigration package DeSantis unveiled Thursday during a Jacksonville press conference. DeSantis has focused on immigration as he prepares for a likely 2024 bid for president and in the process changed how the issue is treated by many Florida Republicans. Not that long ago, they were voting to give additional legal protections to undocumented immigrants.

“Florida is a law and order state, and we won’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s border crisis,” DeSantis said. “We will continue to take steps to protect Floridians from reckless federal open border policies.”

Included in DeSantis’ proposal is the repeal of a 2014 law sponsored by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez when she was a member of the Florida House that offered out-of-state tuition vouchers to some eligible Dreamers, those brought to the United States illegally at a young age. It applied to Dreamers who attended a Florida high school for at least three years.


Then-Gov. Rick Scott, who is now a Republican U.S. senator, signed the proposal in what was seen as a signal Florida Republicans had shifting views on immigration issues as they tried to make inroads with Latino voters, who have a much larger political footprint in Florida than in most states. Since DeSantis took office, however, he has rewired that approach, taking a much harder-line stance on immigration as he gains political support, including with Latino voters.{snip}


DeSantis’ proposal would also repeal a second law passed in 2014 with bipartisan support that allowed noncitizens to be admitted to the Florida Bar. The proposal was signed into law by Scott and got “yes” votes from Diaz, Nunez and Oliva. Simpson and Patronis, both of whom are seen as eyeing bids for governor in 2026, did not vote on the measure when legislators approved it on the House and Senate floors.


DeSantis is also pushing lawmakers to require all Florida employers to use the E-Verify system, a federal database that allows employers to check workers’ employment status. During DeSantis’ first term, he pushed for universal E-Verify but that was opposed by the state’s business lobby. The bill lawmakers approved only required public employers to use the system.


DeSantis’ immigration package also includes:

  • Making it a third-degree felony to “transport, conceal, or harbor illegal aliens,” and a second-degree felony if the person being transported is a minor.
  • Mandating that hospitals collect data on the immigration status of patients and submit reports on costs associated with providing care to undocumented immigrants.
  • Requiring people registering to vote check a box affirming they are U.S. citizens and Florida residents.
  • Prohibiting local governments from issuing ID cards to unauthorized aliens and invalidating out-of-state licenses issued to unauthorized aliens.