TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A flagship GOP proposal that would toughen Florida’s immigration laws advanced Wednesday in the Florida Senate. 

What You Need To Know

  • Undocumented migrants may no longer utilize an out-of-state driver's license under the bill
  • The bill increases human smuggling penalities

  • Some hospitals would be required gather data on undocumented patients

  • The bill is a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis

The bill (SB 1718) is among the more controversial proposals of the 2023 Legislative Session. It is also a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely considered a 2024 GOP presidential contender. 

Under the measure, Florida would no longer recognize out-of-state driver licenses when presented by undocumented migrants — making the offense a second-degree misdemeanor. 

The bill would also toughen human smuggling penalties, up to a second-degree felony, and require state-employers to verify the legal status of new employees. 

“I blame the federal government because it’s their fault,” said Spring Hill Republican Blaise Ingoglia, the bill sponsor. “They’ve created the problem. The only way we’re going to fix it is if we start pushing back.”

The Senate Rules Committee advanced the proposal Wednesday along a party-line vote after lengthy debate and public comment. The bill is slated for one more committee stop before reaching the Senate floor. 

Among other provisions, the bill requires hospitals accepting Medicaid to report the legal status of a patient. It stipulates, though, that the data acquired by hospitals is not reportable to law enforcement — nor should it impact patient care. 

“I really think we need to re-examine how we are looking at these individuals who are fleeing these countries and fleeing these places,” said Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Shev Jones, who voted against the bill. “All they’re doing is looking for a better life. They don’t want no problems. They just want a better life.”

Any business found knowingly employing an undocumented employee, meanwhile, may face a $5,000 first-time fine. Fine may increase per violation, the bill says.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, roughly 772,000 undocumented migrants reside in Florida. The report shows most undocumented migrants in Florida arrived from Mexico and Central America nations.