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Fact-checking DeSantis on sanctuary cities, E-Verify laws
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DeSantis signed a bill in 2020 to require E-Verify for public employers and contractors. It gave private employers a choice: they could use E-Verify or complete the federally required employment eligibility forms and retain copies of the supporting documents.
DeSantis signed a bill in 2019 to ban so-called sanctuary cities and require county jails to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. A federal judge is expected to rule on the legality of the law.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said while the Biden administration has created a crisis at the border, Florida lawmakers have taken action on their own to address illegal immigration.
"When I became governor, we banned sanctuary cities and we also did E-Verify," Florida’s Republican governor said on Fox News, adding that he hoped such policies spread nationwide.
"Biden is going in the absolute wrong direction," DeSantis said. "Trump had it right at the border, Biden has got it wrong."
DeSantis did sign laws to ban sanctuary cities and require some employers to use E-Verify, a federal program for employers to verify eligibility for employment. But he omits context about both bills.
There is no official definition or list of sanctuary cities, and some cities or counties have pushed back on that label. There also isn't any uniform sanctuary policy. Broadly, jurisdictions are described as sanctuary cities when they have policies that restrict state or local police from assisting federal immigration officers; stop local or state officials from inquiring into a person's immigration status; or restrict information sharing between local or state law enforcement and federal authorities.
Democrats have said that sanctuary cities don’t really exist, but that Republicans pretend they do to score political points. We found in 2018 that the fluidity of the definition plus legal challenges made it hard to determine if Florida had sanctuary cities or counties.
In 2019, DeSantis signed a law prohibiting a local government entity from having a sanctuary policy. The law required county jails to enter into agreements with a federal immigration agency and do their best to support federal immigration law. Supporters of the bill said it would improve public safety. Opponents said it was discriminatory and would erode trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.
A spokesperson for DeSantis said that the legislation has deterred cities from choosing not to enforce federal immigration laws.
A spokesperson for the Florida Sheriffs Association said that after SB 168 was signed into law, sheriffs updated their policies and entered into agreements with federal immigration officials, although some already had such agreements.
"The vast majority cooperated anyway," said Paul Chavez, an attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "It’s rare that a jurisdiction wouldn’t."
Before DeSantis signed the sanctuary cities ban, the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank favoring low levels of immigration, listed Florida’s Alachua and Clay counties and the city of West Palm Beach as being sanctuary jurisdictions, but all denied the label at the time. Now, there are no Florida communities listed.
Both Alachua and Clay counties now have "basic ordering agreements" with ICE, as do most Florida counties. But Alachua’s sheriff spokesman Art Forgey said it was already the agency’s policy to give ICE access to inmates when in 2019 it signed a formal agreement to that effect in response to the new law. West Palm Beach reached an agreement with the Justice Department over its policies, and the city directed employees to share information with federal immigration officials.
DeSantis campaigned on a promise to enact E-Verify for employers.
E-Verify is a federal online program that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States by matching information employees provide against Social Security and immigration records. Many states require the use of E-Verify for at least some employers.
After resistance from business groups, DeSantis signed a bill in June 2020 that required E-Verify for public employers and contractors, but gave private employers a choice: They could use E-Verify or complete federally required employment eligibility forms and retain copies of the supporting documents. Many businesses already chose to retain those supporting documents, such as a passport, green card, driver’s license or birth certificate.
"We have not seen a substantial difference with implementation of this law compared to what (employers) were doing previously," Gonzalez said.
The Florida law required compliance by Jan. 1, 2021. There were about 66,000 Florida employers with E-Verify agreements as of Dec. 31, an increase from about 51,000 in 2019. But it’s unclear to what extent that relates to the new law or simply normal growth; there were about 41,000 in 2018. A bill introduced this session would mandate that all employers use E-Verify.
DeSantis said "when I became governor, we banned sanctuary cities and we also did E-Verify."
DeSantis did sign both bills, but omits context about both.
The bill he signed in 2019 banned local governments from having sanctuary policies. and required local jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. But many jurisdictions already cooperated in such a manner before the law. The future of the law is uncertain due to a pending ruling from a federal judge regarding its legality.
In 2020, DeSantis did sign a bill to require E-Verify for public employers and their contractors, but in his comments, the governor omitted that it didn’t apply to private employers who could instead use federal forms used to verify eligibility for employment.
The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it Mostly True.
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Fox News, Florida's Ron DeSantis slams Biden's 'disastrous' border policy: 'Trump had it right,' March 13, 2021
Florida Senate, SB 168, 2019
Florida Senate, SB 664, 2020
Gov. Ron DeSantis, Governor Ron DeSantis Signs SB 168: Federal Immigration Enforcement, June 14, 2019
Southern Poverty Law Center, City of South Miami, et al v. Ron DeSantis, et al
Southern Poverty Law Center, Ahead of January trial, Federal Judge strikes down provision of Florida’s anti-sanctuary law, Dec. 21, 2021
Tampa Bay Times, DeSantis (quietly) signs requirement for electronic verification of immigration status, June 30, 2020
Tampa Bay Times, Florida's sanctuary cities ban has unconstitutional provision, judge rules; Local law enforcement can't transport immigration detainees outside their jurisdictions, according to the federal ruling, Dec. 22, 2020
Tampa Bay Times, Kriseman statement on St. Petersburg's sanctuary city status leads to confusion, Feb. 5, 2017
WLRN, From 'Sanctuary City' And Back Again: Inside Miami-Dade's Five Year Journey, Dec. 19, 2018
U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, Delegation of Immigration Authority Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act, Accessed March 15, 2021
City of West Palm Beach, Department of Justice and West Palm Beach Announce Settlement Related to the City’s Resolution and the Department’s Immigration Cooperation Grant Conditions, March 27, 2018
City Of West Palm Beach, Memo, March 27, 2018
Palm Beach Post, West Palm, DOJ settle dispute over deportation help; Agency withdraws threat to revoke law enforcement grants, March 28, 2018
U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, Delegation of Immigration Authority Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act, Accessed March 16, 2021
Orlando Sentinel, Fla. jail deputies serve ICE warrants, May 12, 2019
PolitiFact’s Scott-O-Meter, Scott now wants a national E-Verify program, June 25, 2012
PolitiFact, No sanctuary cities in Florida? That’s not as settled as Andrew Gillum claims, Feb. 18, 2018
PolitiFact, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushes for E-Verify to crack down on undocumented immigration, Oct. 19, 2019
PolitiFact, Fact-checking Trump’s State of the Union claim on sanctuary cities, criminals, Feb. 5, 2020
Statement from the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis to PolitiFact, March 15, 2021
Statement from ICE Miami office, March 17, 2021
Email interview, Matthew Bourke, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson, March 19, 2021
Telephone interview, Enrique Gonzalez, partner at Fragomen law firm, March 16, 2021
Telephone interview, Paul Chavez, Southern Poverty Law Center senior supervising attorney, March 16, 2021
Email interview, Jessica Vaughan, Center for Immigration Studies director of policy studies, March 15, 2021
Email interview, Laura Shassberger, Clay County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, March 16, 2021
Telephone interview, Art Forgey, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, March 16, 2021
Email interview, Kevin King, city of St. Petersburg spokesperson, March 15, 2021
Email interview, Teri Barbera, Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office spokesperson, March 15, 2021
Email interview, Kathleen Walter, city of West Palm Beach spokesperson, March 16, 2021
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