A day after an E-Verify requirement was tossed from a Senate immigration bill, GOP leaders said the provision would be put back in.
Sources told Sunshine State News on Tuesday that the proposed committee bill would be "fixed" to reinstate wording that mandates the use of E-Verify, a federal database that screens job applicants for employment eligibility.
Speaking on background, one source said Senate leaders would reverse the action taken by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.
The panel, chaired by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, took testimony from business interests and immigration advocates who assailed E-Verify as part of a continuing effort to water down the committee's immigration bill.
Flores, who has tried to soften the language of the immigration debate, acceded to the pressure by deleting the E-Verify requirement. Under her revision, Florida employers could hire based on the presentation of a Florida driver's license or a U.S. passport.
I dont know if anyones gone to get their drivers license lately, but its very, very stringent, Flores said.
In a curtsy to political correctness. Flores also altered the phrasing of the bill to read "unauthorized immigrants," instead of unauthorized aliens."
Democratic lawmakers, business groups and agricultural interests variously blasted E-Verify on Monday as unreliable and an impediment to hiring. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has sued states over its use.
But the U.S. Government Accountability Office's 2010 year-end report found that E-Verify approved 97.4 percent of new hires nationally. The database rejected 2.3 percent and 0.3 percent were classified as a "mismatch" or error in documentation.
Upon taking office in January, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order requiring government agencies to use E-Verify, and he supports extending that requirement to the private sector.
Currently, 15 states require E-Verify use in the public sector. Three states also require it for the private sector.
As word of Flores' action spread across the state Monday, Republican legislative leaders heard from angry constituents, including tea party members who widely support tougher immigration laws.
Last week, Senate President Mike Haridopolos pledged at a tea party rally in Tallahassee that his chamber would enact an E-Verify bill this session.
Tuesday morning, he was already moving to downgrade -- if not undo -- Flores' action.
This is just a proposed committee bill, not the actual product that will pass the Senate," Haridopolos, R-Lake Merritt, told Sunshine State News.
"We welcome input from Floridians on how we can make this a better bill.Rest assured the legislation will strengthen E-Verify and get rid of the loopholes that currently exist.
A highly placed Senate insider, who declined to be identified, went further, saying, "The language in there now is not workable. The bill you see is not the bill that will be passed."
Flores, in a statement on Tuesday, said, The Judiciary Committees recommendation is that employers use E-Verify or require producing documentation that is virtually impossible to counterfeit, such as a drivers license from a REAL ID state.
"To clarify, in its current form, the bill states that you may produce a drivers license from any state; however, I expect an amendment in the next committee to ensure that only states using REAL ID drivers licenses will be allowed.
E-Verify proponents are anxiously watching to see what happens next.
David Caulkett, vice president of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, told Sunshine State News that his group was "blindsided" by what he called Flores' "orchestrated" action. He said using driver's licenses for employment verification would be "a step backward."
"E-Verify takes document verification out of the hands of the employers," Caulkett said, urging the Senate to adopt the House language mandating usage of the federal database.
A free-standing E-Verify measure, Senate Bill 518, by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, reportedly will be shelved in favor of whatever committee bill emerges from Flores' Judiciary panel.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.