By: Diana Bello Aristizabal
Last month, SB 1718, or Governor DeSantis’ immigration law, was approved, and there are many questions that remain in the air after a wave of rejection in the face of this legislation by some members of the community that has brought consequences in the productive sectors for the State and a general panic. For this reason, it should be explained and clarified before it becomes effective on July 1.
The confusion has become evident in social media posts that show hundreds of immigrants quitting their jobs and leaving the state to avoid suffering the reprisals that this law will have, which purpose is to prevent the flow of illegal immigrants by enforcing several measures such as forcing companies with more than 25 employees to use the federal e-Verify system before hiring an employee to confirm he or she is authorized to work. Businesses that fail to do so could lose their licenses or pay large fines.
Other measures, among many others, include a ban on local governments from contributing money to organizations that create ID cards for undocumented immigrants and a requirement for hospitals that receive Medicaid reimbursement to track how much money they spend on illegal immigrants in emergency rooms and request the migratory status of those who ask for their services.
But what does this law mean, what recommendations should those who have an immigration status within the state and those who are business owners follow, and what effects will be seen in the long term under this law? Immigration attorney, Luis Victoria, says the state legislation package seeks to control the negative aspects of immigration such as human trafficking to prevent further violation of state and federal laws.
“As of July 1st, employers will have to adopt very strict measures when hiring staff, especially those who are in the productive sectors that have been most affected by the lack of workforce such as the construction, farming, and tourism ones. These businesses should look at different paths,” the lawyer explains.
One of the paths to meet the demand of workers and prevent the lack of labor from bringing negative consequences for all state residents such as a scarcity of products and services and, therefore, a rise in prices is to hire foreigners through temporary visas such as the H-2B.
“Companies must be prepared for what is coming and ask themselves if they prefer to choose the correct way or pay fines and risk having their operating license taken away. It must be clarified that the federal government is very concerned about the lack of potential employees and how this would affect the economy, which is why more visas than normal have been issued,” he says.
In fact, this fiscal year, some changes were applied, and more than 64,000 H-2B visas were added, meaning there will be much more opportunities to obtain this type of visa, even the ones related with special skills such as the O-1 that was designed to meet the hiring needs of higher standards jobs. “This visa now comes out faster,” Victoria explains.
But beyond the hiring options that exist through legal means, it’s important that each company has the support of an immigration lawyer, a labor lawyer, and an accountant to be able to adopt the best measures according to the operation of their business and thus minimize risks.
“If, for example, 50 or 70 percent of a corporation’s employees are undocumented, they would be in serious trouble and could receive warning calls or be subject to audits. Entrepreneurs who fail to find solutions on time are going to be audited, because this law will affect all businessmen in the private sector and there will be no tolerance,” Victoria warns.
There will also be negative consequences for those who submit false documentation to work. “These people are very possibly going to be prosecuted for committing a third-degree felony and that is very serious not only because they will face criminal charges but because they could be linked to an immediate deportation proceeding,” he adds.
In addition, the lawyer invites immigrants to think that by working in a company illegally they lose all the benefits and guarantees that they would enjoy if they chose the legal route, such as, for example, the payment of health insurance or a retirement plan.
For this reason, the solution for them is not to continue living outside the law or to flee the state, but to seek legal advice as soon as possible in order to understand what options they have according to their specific situation and thus avoiding making mistakes. It should be noted that individuals are encouraged to seek help only by professionals who have an accredited law degree and not by friends or acquaintances who, although they have good intentions, are not deeply familiar with laws.
“There are many specific situations, such as being involved in an asylum process or having started a concurrent petition and adjustment of status process. So long as these individuals have done everything by the book and have their documentation, they will not be subject to the law since despite the fact they lack a legal status, they are protected and have not accumulated an illegal presence,” he clarifies.
In general, regardless of the case, it is very important that those who have an immigration status of any kind always have their documentation on hand or a copy of the notification documents they have received in order to immediately provide information to the competent authorities that require it.