Scott now wants a national E-Verify program
If you ask Gov. Rick Scott, he hasn't changed his ardent campaign promise of implementing a statewide E-Verify requirement to identify illegal workers.
"I didn't change my position on E-Verify,” he told reporters at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference on June 22, 2012.
An in-depth explanation from Scott's own mouth says otherwise, though.
The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau asked Scott to clarify his position after he told a group of citrus officials that it would be foolish to put Florida businesses at a disadvantage. (Neighbors Georgia and Alabama have laws requiring employers to use the free, Internet-based E-Verify system).
Here's his full response:
"Here's what I feel about our immigration policy. Number one, the federal government needs to have a national, secure borders. Two, have an immigration policy that everybody understands – Americans and people who come to our country. Three, we need to make sure we have a work visa program that doesn't put Florida businesses at a disadvantage. Now, with the regard to E-Verify, as you know we did it for people who do business with state government, but we've got to have a national E-Verify program, because I don't want to put Florida businesses at a competitive disadvantage.”
Comprehensive federal reforms? A work visa or national E-Verify program? None of those were part of Scott's campaign promise to "require all Florida employers to use the free E-Verify system to ensure that their workers are legal."
Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, an activist group that endorsed Scott based on his strong pledges to crack down on illegal immigration, said Scott is going back on his promise.
"He never campaigned on this phony baloney guest worker program,” said David Caulkett, vice president and founder. "That wasn't part of his campaign.”
Caulkett contends Scott was swayed from his hard-and-fast campaign position by business interests. He's lost hope that Scott will press the issue while he's in office.
"They've wimped out and betrayed citizens on this issue,” he said, including other state leaders such as Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
Advocates for more immigration say Scott is following a national trend of states stepping back from harsh enforcement measures.
"Responsible, pragmatic Republicans in a lot of states are seeing what happened in states that went with all-out enforcement," said Tamar Jacoby, of Immigration Works USA, a pro-immigration business coalition. "Those states hemmoraged workers, and investors started having qualms.”
Whatever the reason for Scott's move, this remains Promise Broken.
Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, "Scott makes it clear he"s backed off his demand for E-Verify compliance at state level,” June 20, 2012
Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, "Gov. Scott on immigration, e-Verify, jobs and Romney,” June 22, 2012
Interview with David Caulkett, FLIMEN vice president and founder, June 25, 2012
Is Rick Scott changing his mind on E-Verify?
Gov. Rick Scott's campaign promise to make Florida employers use the federal E-Verify system earned a Promise Broken from us last year because the state Legislature failed to pass a statewide requirement.
Recent comments from Scott indicate we won't be changing the status of this promise anytime soon.
Speaking at a luncheon with state citrus officials, Scott blamed the federal government for not doing more to secure the borders and said he did not know of any efforts by lawmakers to revive an E-Verify bill, the Lakeland Ledger reported on June 13, 2012.
"It would be foolish to put Florida companies at a disadvantage," Scott said.
Scott was responding to a question about the possibility of a future E-Verify bill by Michael Sparks, chief executive of Florida Citrus Mutual.
Scott's pledge to require private businesses to use the federal employment background system was part of a few immigration-related promises on the campaign. This one played well with some conservatives, especially tea party members, but is unpopular with the agriculture industry, which relies on undocumented labor to harvest crops.
Scott spokesman Lane Wright couched the governor's statement a few days later, saying Scott still supports E-Verify "as long as it is part of a broader strategy for the federal government doing its job on immigration.”
It's not clear from his comments that Scott has explicitly abandoned the idea of imposing E-Verify requirements for private industry. Still, supporters of a blanket requirement won't be encouraged when they see what he said before the citrus industry.
This one remains Promise Broken.
The Lakeland Ledger, "Gov. Scott assures growers on immigration,” June 13, 2012
Email interview with Kevin Bouffard, Ledger reporter, June 16, 2012
Interview Lane Wright, Gov. Rick Scott spokesman, June 15, 2012
No E-Verify requirement this year
Back in the 2010 Republican primary for governor, we heard over and over from candidate Rick Scott about his get-tough approach on illegal immigration.
It was a way to contrast himself with his primary opponent, then Attorney General Bill McCollum, who Scott accused of being soft on the issue. Specifically, Scott vowed to bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida, fight any proposal for amnesty for people living in the United States illegally and require all employers in the state to run their employees through a federal system that tries to ascertain if they are in the country legally.
We're dealing with the first two promises in other items. Here, we're focusing on Gov. Scott's promise regarding E-Verify.
Here's what his campaign website said under "border security."
"Rick will require all Florida employers to use the free E-Verify system to ensure that their workers are legal."
The E-Verify system is a federal database that compares information from a person's employment paperwork to Homeland Security and Social Security records. Employers who use the program can weed out immigrants not eligible to work in this country. Once employers hire workers, they run their names through the E-Verify database. If the records match, the new employees are eligible to work. If they don't match, the database notifies the employers, who must then give the workers eight days to provide sufficient proof of eligibility.
As we mentioned in a previous update on this promise, Scott issued an executive order his first day in office requiring state workers to be checked through the system, though most agencies already used the system.
Attempts to extend that edict to all Florida employers -- as Scott promised -- occurred during the 2011 legislative session. But nothing materialized.
The closest the state got was an amendment to an immigration bill offered by state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. In the waning days of session, on May 3, 2011, Thrasher tried to insert a strong incentive for Florida employers to use the E-Verify system -- use it, or risk being fined.
Thrasher's amendment to SB 2040 would have created noncriminal fines for employers who are found to have employed a nondocumented worker and had not screened that employee through the E-Verify system. But even in a Republican-dominated Senate where the GOP holds 28 of the 40 seats, the amendment was defeated 23-16.
Scott ran into an unwilling partner in the Legislature when it came to requiring Florida employers to use the E-Verify system. But Scott promised to require E-Verify throughout the state knowing it would require legislative approval, so we cannot offer him mercy. We rate this Promise Broken.
SB 2040, accessed May 6, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott, Executive Order 11-02, Jan. 4, 2011
Miami Herald, "Rick Scott's latest McCollum-immigration attack sure looks familiar," Aug. 11, 2010
PolitiFact Florida, "Sen. John Thrasher says E-Verify could've prevented 9/11 attacks," May 3, 2011
Scott starts by ordering state to use E-Verify
During his 2010 campaign for governor, Republican Rick Scott stated on his website under the border security section that he would "require all Florida employers to use the free E-Verify system to ensure that their workers are legal."
Within an hour of his Jan. 4, 2011, inauguration speech, Scott issued Executive Order 11-02 that requires all agencies under the governor's direction to "verify the employment eligibility of all current and prospective agency employees through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify system." The order also requires that state contractors use E-Verify for "all persons employed during the contract term by the contractor to perform employment duties within Florida" and "all persons (including subcontractors) assigned by the contractor to perform work pursuant to the contract with the state agency."
For this Scott-O-Meter update, we will evaluate: Has Scott met his promise to require "all Florida employers to use the E-Verify system?"
The first thing we noticed was that during the campaign, Scott referred to "all Florida employers" -- he didn't narrow that field of employers to state government or state contractors. But the press release issued after his inauguration said he "fulfilled campaign promises by signing executive orders to ... require state agencies to verify legal immigration status." We find his promise is broader than his two-page executive order.
First, some background that we obtained from the Department of Homeland Security's website. E-Verify is an internet-based system for employers to check the eligibility of an employee to work in the U.S. More than 238,000 employers are enrolled, and "E-Verify is mandatory for some employers" with certain federal contracts.
PolitiFact also had an item from Nov. 19, 2010, which contained this background:
"E-Verify is a free, federal database that compares information from a person's employment paperwork to Homeland Security and Social Security records. Employers who use the program can weed out immigrants not eligible to work in this country. Once employers hire workers, they run their names through the E-Verify database. If the records match, the new employees are eligible to work. If they don't match, the database notifies the employers, who must then give the worker eight days to provide sufficient proof of eligibility. What sounds like a foolproof system quickly came under fire. Critics complained that the database was inaccurate and demanded that it be improved before E-Verify was widely implemented."
As of mid-November, PolitiFact found 13 states that require the use of E-Verify.
"There are variations in how states employ E-Verify. Idaho, North Carolina and Virginia require E-Verify checks on state employees, while Colorado mandates that only state contractors use the system. ... Rhode Island, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma require both. Finally, Arizona, Mississippi and Utah mandate that all employers statewide use the program. (South Carolina requires employers to verify the legal status of their workers, either through E-Verify or by checking their drivers' licenses.)"
Now back to Scott's executive order.
We had some questions: Does the order apply to every single state contractor or only those of a certain size or contract of a certain value? If the state -- or a contractor -- can't verify someone's employment eligibility through E-Verify or concludes that someone isn't eligible for employment, then what? Will the state require contractors to verify their workers as a qualification to bid, or only if they win the contract? Will the state need to make rules on how to implement E-Verify, and would that violate another executive order Scott issued Jan. 4 suspending all rulemaking? And does the state already have a system to verify worker eligibility?
We contacted Scott's press office on the morning of Jan. 5 but did not hear back by late afternoon. (We didn't hear back from the governor on our first Scott-O-Meter promise update on Jan. 4 either.)
We started by looking at whether Scott was the first to propose state action on using E-Verify.
According to a July 6, 2010, item in The Buzz, a political blog of the St. Petersburg Times:
"Rick Scott, trying to beef up his anti-illegal immigration cred in the Republican primary for governor, called Thursday for all employers in Florida to use E-Verify, a program that checks the legal status of employees. Not to be outdone, primary rival Bill McCollum today released a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist asking him to have all state agencies use the program. 'As one of Florida's largest employers, state government should lead by example.' "
In a publication by then-Attorney General Bill McCollum July 30, 2010, McCollum wrote: "In Cabinet this week, I proposed a motion that was passed unanimously requiring all Florida state agencies under the Cabinet's authority to use the E-Verify system when screening potential employees. ... I applaud our Cabinet for taking action and voting to require that every Cabinet agency use the E-Verify system. Florida state government should lead by example, and this is an excellent example to set."
Minutes from the July 29, 2010, Cabinet meeting -- starting at page 41 -- show that some agencies already had implemented or were in the process of implementing E-Verify on hiring. Among those cited by McCollum were the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and the State Board of Administration.
We also found that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection implemented E-Verify on Dec. 6, 2010, for new employees, according to spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation had already completed training on E-Verify before Scott's inauguration and implemented its use Jan. 5 for current and prospective employees, said press secretary Sandi Copes.
And from the Florida Department of Management Services, we learned that the state already follows federal law that requires employers -- including the state -- to document the identity of new hires through the I-9 form process, according to spokeswoman Lauren Engel.
We wondered: Would it be legal for Scott to require "all Florida employers" -- every single restaurant, plumbing business, coffee shop, law office and accounting firm -- to use E-Verify?
That promise could run afoul of the business community.
Associated Industries of Florida, a pro-business group, opposes any requirement for state contractors or businesses to use E-Verify, CEO Barney Bishop said in an interview Jan. 5.
Bishop said he likes the idea of using it in the future, but he isn't convinced that the system is 100 percent correct.
The Florida Chamber doesn't have a position on E-Verify, but unrelated to the new governor's order, the chamber was in the process of preparing a survey of small business members to garner their opinions about it, said spokeswoman Edie Ousley.
On Dec. 23, 2008, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit challenging an order to require certain federal contractors to use E-Verify. The Chamber ultimately lost, but posted this in a Jan. 9, 2009, press release on its website:
"We hope the incoming administration recognizes that the last thing American businesses need during these difficult economic times is more bureaucracy and higher compliance costs," said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the Chamber's public policy law firm.
A 2007 Arizona law that mandates all employers use E-Verify has been challenged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is before the U.S. Supreme Court, said Amy Nice, executive director for immigration policy at the Chamber, in a Jan. 5 interview. States aren't authorized to mandate that all employers use the system "because federal law controls use of the E-Verify program," Nice said.
During the campaign in 2010, Scott promised: "Rick will require all Florida employers to use the free E-Verify system to ensure that their workers are legal." The executive order he issued his first day in office takes a step in that direction -- but it applies only to the state and state contractors. And the Florida Cabinet in July had already ordered state agencies to use E-Verify -- something Scott, a candidate at the time, had brought up by then. It isn't clear whether Scott intends to extend his efforts to apply to "all Florida employers" as he promised or if he has backed away from that promise due to opposition by the business lobby. For now, we rate this promise In the Works.
Rick Scott for governor, Campaign website, Accessed Jan. 4, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott, Executive Order 11-02, Jan. 4, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott, Executive Order 11-01, Jan. 4, 2011
PolitiFact, Scott-O-Meter, Accessed Jan. 4, 2011
PolitiFact, "Chafee says only six states use E-Verify," Nov. 19, 2010
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify, Accessed Jan. 4, 2011
The Buzz blog of the St. Petersburg Times, "After Rick Scott calls for e-Verify, Bill McCollum does too,"July 6, 2010
Palm Beach Post, "I 'was tea party before there was a tea party' McCollum tells activists," July 1, 2010
Florida Cabinet, Minutes, July 29, 2010
Attorney General Bill McCollum, "Generally Speaking,"July 30, 2010
Interview, Florida Department of Management Services spokeswoman Lauren Engel, Jan. 5, 2011
Interview, Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller, Jan. 5, 2011
Interview, Associated Industries of Florida CEO Barney Bishop, Jan. 5, 2011
Interview, Florida Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Edie Ousley, Jan. 5, 2011
Interview, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive director for immigration policy Amy Nice, Jan. 5, 2011
Interview, Attorney William R. Amlong, Jan. 5, 2011