Ask any business owner, and they’ll tell you that finding good employees is a challenge. With a current unemployment rate of just 3.2 percent, there are fewer Floridians looking for work, making it harder for business owners to fill job openings. We can’t afford any more hiring roadblocks. But proposed legislation in Tallahassee this year would do just that. If implemented, the E-Verify mandate being discussed at the Capitol would bring severe negative consequences to Florida businesses and our economy.

Despite widespread opposition from businesses across the state and elected officials from both parties, Governor DeSantis and his allies are seemingly committed to advancing this policy, regardless of its potential impact on the economy.

Introduced by state Senator Joe Gruters (R) and state Representative Cord Byrd (R), SB 664 and HB 1265 would mandate that all employers who operate in Florida participate in the federal E-Verify program. The E-Verify program is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ online verification system that attempts to screen the immigration status of all potential employees.

Supporters claim that mandating this system is a step to rein in illegal immigration, but the reality is that these proposals effectively target Florida’s key industries with bureaucratic red tape and saddle local businesses with the cost and responsibility of enforcing federal immigration law. Neither of which should be our responsibility or burden.

Further, undocumented workers play a critical role in the health of the Florida economy. The estimated 400,000 undocumented immigrants in Florida annually contribute over $36.5 billion to our economy and pay nearly $4 billion in state and local taxes. These employees and their significant contributions are essential to our economic future. Without them, many businesses across the state would find themselves in dire straits, and in key industries to Florida’s economy such as agriculture and tourism.

Unfortunately, mandatory E-Verify specifically targets these undocumented employees and ultimately eliminates them from the workforce. As mentioned, with unemployment at an all-time low, the loss of these workers will not be easily rectified, leading to a significant decrease in productivity and profit. If enacted, mandatory E-Verify’s economic impact on businesses will be long-lasting and severe.

Compounding these losses is the disadvantage mandatory E-Verify would place Florida in compared to our chief competitors – specifically California, New York and Texas – that have not adopted mandatory E-Verify. This means that they face one less hurdle in the competition for new employees.

Mandatory E-Verify would not just impact business owners and undocumented Floridians. It would have significant ramifications for all Floridians. In fact, a recent study by Dr. Rick Harper commissioned by FWD.us found that should mandatory E-Verify be implemented, statewide economic activity will decrease substantially and directly lead to a net loss of over 250,000 jobs, over $10.6 billion in lost earnings and a loss of $1.25 billion in state and local tax revenue every single year.

Unnecessary regulations are incredibly damaging for Florida businesses, restricting growth and damaging our economy. Mandatory E-Verify is no exception. Our representatives should be looking for ways to support businesses instead of bogging them down with bureaucratic red tape and harming the immigrant community in the process.

I urge our Florida legislators to vote against mandatory E-Verify proposals this legislative session.

Julio Fuentes is the president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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