Florida needs a well-rounded and competitive workforce to produce goods and services that will ensure a robust economic future for our state.
To compete successfully in the future marketplace, Florida must plan for the labor demands resulting from an aging labor force, changing skills set needs and growth in global demand. Florida currently lacks an adequate population of skilled workers in science, technology, and engineering-related fields. Long-term forecasts indicate the problem will grow more severe if employers are not able to utilize legal immigrants to supplement their workforce.
Outdated and overly restrictive visa policies are depriving employers of the talent needed to succeed in a global economy. The expansion of both temporary and permanent visa programs for highly skilled workers as well as programs that enable employers to access and keep the talent necessary to compete in the global market are essential to Florida’s future growth.
Since the passage of Arizona’s ill-fated anti-immigrant legislation, there has been a patchwork of state and local government mandates. While supporters of the anti-immigrant legislation have had some successes in a handful of states, far more states rejected anti-immigrant bills due to cost and compliance issues. Arizona, Georgia and Alabama have all served as examples of the economic consequences of such legislation. These laws are expensive to implement and place a heavy burden on state and local governments already feeling the effects of a down economy.
Misplaced efforts to expand e-Verify as an immigration-enforcement tool are ultimately bad for the economy. There is no guarantee that any undocumented worker will leave the country as a result of e-Verify, nor will it prevent identity theft. Instead, an entire sector of government will have to grow exponentially to accommodate an influx of inquiries to a system based on already flawed Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security information.
Aside from growth in government sector expenses, e-Verify places significant burdens on businesses, especially small businesses that do not have human resources and legal departments that could handle e-Verify errors and registration requirements as well as compliance issues leading to significant investments of time, money and lost productivity. E-Verify requires high-speed Internet access. A lot of rural communities, where small businesses are the backbone of the local economy, don’t have it, leaving the business owner to bear that cost and responsibility.
Mandatory e-Verify without comprehensive federal immigration reform will not end illegal immigration, free up jobs for unemployed Americans, or save the country money. As Florida positions itself to be the preeminent state in job growth, business-friendly regulatory climate, international tourism, and foreign trade and investment, legislation that tarnishes our global image only serves to harm our state economy.
A comprehensive, federal approach to immigration serves our nation’s best interest and is critical for Florida as we position ourselves to win the global race for talent and jobs.