DeSantis’ hostile environment for unauthorized persons

On February 23, Florida Governor DeSantis filed legislation which amounts to a mass crackdown on unauthorized persons in Florida. (Here is the state’s press release). The New York Times reports that the bill is approaching a vote.

Following other states, e-Verify

DeSantis is attempting to introduce what the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom explicitly calls a “hostile environment.”  Let’s look at the matter of employment.

According to the American Immigration Council (August, 2020), 775,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 18 percent of the immigrant population and 4 percent of the total state population in Florida in 2016. This figure understates the importance of the unauthorized population, as many live with U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents.

The state’s total workforce is about 10 million.  My guess is that 500,000 of them are unauthorized, and that some live with or partners of 100,000 legal workers. Thus, directly or indirectly about 6% of the workforce will be adversely affected be DeSantis’ crackdown.

With regard to employment, the Florida bill basically seeks to match Arizona’s 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA). The most direct impact of this law for the workforce as to require all employers to use e-Verify, though the hostile environment created by the entire law likely had an impact on employment.  Arizona was the first (2007) of eight states (including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah) that require all employers to use e-Verify.

Research centers in most of these states have studied the impact of the requirement on the size of the unauthorized workforce, the impact on the legal workforce, usually showing minor impacts. This is a hard topic to research because many unauthorized workers are independent contractors (grounds work, cleaning, construction laborers, personal aides) and thus not subject to e-Verify, which applies only to employees.

Perhaps the most specific numbers in impact are for Arizona, for which researchers in 2011 concluded as follows:

A study done in 2011 of the impact of the Arizona law concluded as follows: “Arizona achieved the intended goal of reducing the number of unauthorized immigrants. The population of non-citizen Hispanic immigrants—a high proportion of whom are unauthorized immigrants—in Arizona fell by roughly 92,000 persons, or approximately 17 percent, [because of the law] over 2008–2009. However, there was a shift to self-employment. Wage and salary employment of Hispanic non-citizens dropped by approximately 56,000 while non-citizen Hispanic self-employment increased by about 25,000. We found no strong evidence that LAWA, as of yet, either harms or benefits competing authorized workers.”

The current labor market in Florida

Florida’s unemployment rate today is  2.6%

There are many open positions in construction and the hospitality industries.



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