TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There will be more penalties for hiring undocumented migrants in Florida and more money to relocate them to other parts of the country.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed those 2023 goals into law Wednesday morning to fight what he called the "Biden border crisis."
"Where is this president's energy?" DeSantis said at the Jacksonville event. "Where is his vigor? Where is his commitment to the cause? He's just sitting around doing nothing…"
DeSantis, an expected 2024 White House contender, also brought along people like Nikki Jones, a Plant City mother of two who lost her husband in 2019 during a collision with an undocumented driver.
"I am in complete support of this immigration bill," Jones said. "It is a start to protecting our families and children."
Among the new law's provisions:
- Tougher penalties for knowingly hiring or transporting undocumented in the state
- E-Verify employment screening for new hires at businesses with 25 or more employees
- Florida hospitals will collect immigration status and the state will no longer recognize outside driver licenses for undocumented.
- Florida's migrant relocation program also gets another $12 million after previously flying nearly 50 undocumented from Texas to Martha's Vineyard.
Republican backers have said, taken together, the immigration package will act as a deterrent to a migrant influx.
"We have a very serious issue happening right now at the border," Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said. "As I said before, the states need to take action."
The White House fired back later Wednesday, criticizing the plan and Florida's governor.
"We're stepping up enforcement to quickly and humanely remove individuals who try to enter the United States unlawfully," a Biden official said. "Governor DeSantis wants to fly them and their children to cities up north, with no sense of where they are going or why. The governor isn't interested in solving this problem. He just wants to make it worse by pulling political stunts."
On the state level, fellow Democrats warned the changes would hurt more than help. Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, believed the new law would push migrants away from medical care and weaken Florida's workforce.
"This is un-American," Eskamani said. "It is anti-freedom. It is not the Florida where I grew up — the Florida that I was always, always so proud that my parents, as immigrants, came to call this state home."
DNC member Thomas Kennedy, who was undocumented for a time as a child, also weighed in. The Argentinian said the new law was cruel to migrants.
"We're really just hard-working people that want to be left alone — that want to, you know, protect and support their families," Kennedy said.
He was among those arrested last week for trespassing while protesting outside the governor's office.
"It's just sad that we continue to be demonized by politicians that try to score the political points out of us," Kennedy said.
Kennedy also warned a legal challenge of the new law could be coming as migrant advocacy groups he’s associated with mull options for the future.