Florida State Immigration Laws
Immigration law is constantly changing and challenging to understand. Each case is unique and varies as each state enforces its own immigration laws. Regardless of its complexities, learning about your rights and responsibilities is important. This is particularly true for migrants, noncitizens, and asylum seekers processing their lawful immigration status.
This article will give a comprehensive overview of some Florida immigration laws. It includes the basic rights and responsibilities of immigrants and immigrants without documentation in Florida. It narrows down some of their most important rights under state and federal immigration law. This article discusses the following topics:
- Law enforcement and immigration in Florida
- Local and state laws in Florida
- Florida E-Verify requirements
- Driver's License/ID requirements
- Public benefit restrictions
- Educational restrictions
- Voting ID rules
- Housing laws and immigration
- Hire an immigration lawyer
The federal government often handles law enforcement of immigration laws. The following are the federal government agencies that administer immigration laws:
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Local immigration authorities also work with the federal government to enforce immigration policies.
For instance, ICE implemented Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This program allows state and local law enforcement agencies to partner with ICE under a joint Memorandum of Agreement. This gives the state agencies delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions. ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) partners with local agencies in identifying and removing incarcerated criminal non-U.S. citizens.
In the state of Florida, there are many county sheriff's offices that take part in this program. The complete list is on ICE's 287(g) Program website. ICE also has the Criminal Apprehension Program (CAP).
CAP emphasizes fighting against illegal immigration and the execution of ERO's mission. It focuses on identifying, arresting, and removing incarcerated noncitizens. This includes at-large criminal non-U.S. citizens convicted of serious crimes. Immigration officials will then assess whether the person should undergo deportation or removal.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed Senate Bill 1718 on July 1, 2023. It forced wide-encompassing regulations affecting immigrants without documentation. The following are some of the matters that the lawmakers implemented in this law:
- Issuance of identification documents
- Acquiring a driver's license
- Access to healthcare services
- Verification of employment
- Practice of law
- Transportation of immigrants without documentation
As of July 17, 2023, this law is officially being challenged in court by civil rights and legal advocates.
The bill prohibits counties and cities from giving funds to entities that issue IDs to migrants living here illegally.
Getting a Driver's License
With the new bill, a driver's license issued to immigrants without documentation in other states is invalid in Florida. The law also lists those exempted from getting a driver's license. Section 4. Section 322.04 of the law details these exemptions.
Access to Healthcare Services
Florida hospitals ask for immigration status upon registration or admission of the patient.
Verification of Employment
Florida also imposed a more stringent rule for employers when hiring. Private employers with 25 or more employees must use the E-Verify system. The system is a federal database employers use to confirm employees' eligibility to work in the country.
Practice of Law
The bill removes the provision that allows immigrants without documentation to get a license to practice law.
The bill also states that those who transport immigrants without documentation into or within Florida or those who hide or shield immigrants living here illegally from detection may also face legal consequences.
S.B. 1718 mandates businesses to implement the E-Verify system when hiring employees. The system will look at the immigration status and employment authorization of the individual. This rule applies to public and private employers with 25 employees or more.
The bill also prohibits employers from continuously employing immigrants without documentation after learning about their immigration status. It is also illegal for immigrants to use false IDs to gain employment.
The government penalizes and punishes people who violate this statute.
Driver's License/ID Requirements
S.B. 1718 Section 322.033 makes the driver's licenses of immigrants without documentation invalid in the state of Florida. This rule applies regardless of the license's validity in other states. Meanwhile, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of Florida may apply for a driver's license with the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).
FLHSMV office requires applicants to bring identification documents when applying for a driver's license. The documents may vary depending on the immigration status of the person. For U.S. Citizens, bring an original copy of one of the following:
- U.S. birth certificate
- Valid U.S. passport or passport card
- Consular report of birth abroad
- Certificate of naturalization
- Certificate of citizenship
For Immigrants or those with lawful permanent resident status:
- Valid alien registration card or green card
- I-551 stamp in passport or on I-94
- Order of the immigration judge granting asylum
- An original copy of the following documents with full name and Social Security number. This will include the following:
- Social Security Card
- W-2 Form
- Paycheck or pay stub
- Any 1099 form
- Proofs of address
- Utility bill
- Florida vehicle registration or title
- Monthly mortgage statement/payment, deed, or resident rental or lease agreement
- Automobile payment booklet
- W-2 form or 1099 form
- Insurance policy
You may visit this link for more information about what to bring when applying for a driver's license.
Florida limits immigrants without documentation access to social services and financial aid. Also, Florida hospitals must collect immigration status when registering or admitting patients. The hospitals must submit quarterly reports about these data to the Agency of Health Care Administration. The Agency will give the governor and the legislature a detailed annual report.
On June 9, 2014, Florida House Bill 851 (H.B. 851) was signed into law. This law allows certain immigrants living in Florida illegally to access in-state tuition rates. This benefit is also available to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients. The undocumented student should file a waiver for out-of-state fees to use this educational benefit. But, they should meet specific requirements to be eligible for this waiver. These requirements include the following:
- Studied at a secondary school in Florida for three consecutive years before graduation.
- Enrolled in a public institution for higher education in Florida within 24 months after graduation from secondary school.
- Submitted an official copy of their high school transcript as evidence of school attendance and graduation.
But, students without documentation who apply for the waiver can't get state financial aid. You may visit this link to learn more about in-state tuition in Florida.
Recent DeSantis-proposed legislation would end in-state tuition for all immigrants without documentation if it passes.
Florida requires that voters present a photo ID with a signature to the polling officers. Voters who do not have an ID can cast a provisional ballot. Authorities must check if the voter is eligible to vote by comparing the voter's signature to those on file.
The state of Florida has its own Fair Housing Act. It adopts the same language as that of the Federal Fair Housing Act. It ensures individuals' right to fair housing, guarding them against discrimination based on religion, race, sex, national origin, and disability.
Florida has more stringent immigration rules and regulations compared with other states. Thus, for questions about immigration laws, it's best to consult an immigration attorney. This is particularly true for those who are navigating the immigration system processing.
Immigration attorneys will give immigrants and migrants a better understanding of their civil rights under federal and state legislatures. They can help immigrant communities get legal status or other matters related to immigrants' rights. There are many immigration law attorneys in the state.
Whether you are in Tallahassee or Miami, contact a local immigration law attorney for help with your legal concerns.
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Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you get the best results possible.