Florida’s E-Verify Ballot Opposed by Latino Business

A Latino-led business coalition is trying to block a Florida state constitutional amendment that would penalize companies which hire illegal immigrants.

A volunteer group of pro-American reformers is fighting to get the wage-raising E-Verify measure on the November ballot. “This is a David and Goliath situation … I’m fighting billionaires, and I’m just a regular construction guy,” said Jack Oliver, a former construction worker who is now director of Floridians for E-Verify Now. Without an E-Verify system which forces companies to bar illegals from jobs, company foremen won’t hire and train Americans, Oliver said, adding:

They don’t hire Johnny down the street. They call up their cousin in Mexico or the Caribbean and say “Send my nephew up here. I’ve got another slot on the crew, I’ll teach him how to this.” That robs opportunities from [American] people who are not going to college.

The business coalition is arguing that the proposed E-Verify measure will cost them money. “The Proposal would be devastating and costly to Floridian businesses and workers,” says a protest letter from the business coalition. Most of the signers are Latino business leaders, including Mike Fernandez, a billionaire healthcare investor who favored the GOP in 2012 and Democratic Party in 2016. The letter continued:

The cost to employers posed by Proposal 29 could be astronomical … As Bob Dickinson, Retired CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines has said, “Proposal 29 is anti-jobs. It would impose unacceptable burdens on Florida’s businesses and workers. It is bad for our tourism industry and creates disincentives for businesses to be in our state.”

The employers’ backlash against the proposed immigration reform is rational because they are being pressured to raise wages to many urban and suburban workers amid a tight labor market in President Donald Trump’s economy. “We’re on the cusp of that … I think we’ll see it full-scale in 2018,” Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness said in January. 

In contrast, politicians have a rational incentive to help raise voters’ wages by shrinking the supply of illegal workers. Governor Rick Scott, for example, touted a mandatory E-Verify plan when he ran for governor in 2010 (“He reneged on it,” said Oliver). Scott has now announced he will run against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this November. He likely will be aided if the popular E-Verify measure is on the ballot. 

The Florida dispute is caused by a novel feature in the state’s constitution, which creates a commission every 20 years to draft constitutional reforms for later approval in the state-wide ballot. This year, the panel has approved a draft ballot initiative that would require companies to use an E-Verify system before hiring. The proposal is pushed by commissioner Rich Newsome, and it has been approved three times by the 37-member panel.

The proposal will be reviewed a final time on the 16th or 17th and it must be approved by 22 members of the 37-member panel before it can be scheduled for the November ballot.

In the most recent vote, supporters won 19 votes and 13 rejections, while five commissioners were absent. The commissioners who voted no included an African-American politician and lawyer, Arthenia Joyner, conservative activist John Stemberger, and criminal lawyer Hank Coxe.

The proposal is opposed by committee chairman Carlos Beruff, who is also a real estate developer. The real-estate industry is aided by immigration, which provides it with both cheap workers and new consumers. In 2016 Beruff ran in the GOP primary to replace Sen. Marco Rubio while loudly touting a pro-American immigration policy which included a mandatory E-Verify program. 

The billionaires’ letter is intended to stop the E-Verify proposal getting on the ballot.

The business groups have a huge amount of money to donate to politicians and have defeated almost 50 prof-Americans immigration reforms in the state legislature.  “The Chamber of Commerce people and the agriculture people have a stranglehold on the legislative process over here,” said Oliver. In fact, a donation-tracking website shows that Fernandez’s MBF healthcare-investment group is a leading donor in 2016 and in 2018 to a wide variety of candidates and committees. 

In 2016, Fernandez strongly backed Jeb Bush and strongly opposed Trump. The Miami Herald reported Fernandez’s view that the United States is united by a pro-migration mission, not by Americans: 

To counter the Trump administration’s aggressive deportation policy, a billionaire Miami healthcare mogul plans to spend the next couple of years raising — and spending — serious cash to defend unauthorized immigrants in court …

Fernandez, 64, cuts a colorful figure in local politics. A major backer of Republican Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, Fernandez vowed to support Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump. He paid for anti-Trump newspaper ads during the campaign — prompting a lawsuit threat from a Trump attorney — and endorsed and fundraised for Clinton, though Fernandez said he ultimately wrote-in Bush’s name on the ballot. Fernandez also sharply broke with most of his fellow Cuban-American Republicans on U.S.-Cuba policy, supporting former President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with the island’s communist regime.

“We are a great nation, and we should be able to overcome this issue with the facts, economic facts,” Fernandez said. “We’re a country that’s united by an idea … and the idea is, we were all coming from a different place. It was that idea that accidentally proved that diversity makes for great nations.”

The Fernandez lobbying letter claims:

Proposal 29 is nothing more than an attempt to constitutionally mandate E-Verify by another name, and it suffers from all the same deficiencies.  Any newly created system would undoubtedly be subject to the same types of mismatches and errors that are all too common with E-Verify, and most government databases …

We ask that YOU VOTE NO on Proposal 29 because this provision is not only ineffective, it will hurt our workers and harm the Florida economy.

In early March, Fernandez’s group helped kill off a bill that would have blocked sanctuary cities in Florida.  “The state of Florida should not go down the misguided and potentially dangerous path … As we work to rebuild our state in the wake of Hurricane Irma, HB9/SB308 would make it harder to find the workers we need for reconstruction efforts,” Fernandez’s Immigration Partnership & Coalition Fund said at its website. The group includes GOP-tied lobbyist Al Cardenas and media personality Ana Navarro, who is a strong opponent of President Donald Trump.

MBF is also a major donor to GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo who has repeatedly pushed for an amnesty of the 2 million ‘DACA’ illegals. 

Oliver is a former construction worker who became an advocate as he watched wages freeze and drop throughout the state’s construction industry. He told Breitbart News:

I got involved in this because I was in the drywall trade and forced out because of illegal labor. My family went from having a good upper middle-class income to barely being able to pay our monthly bills because of the massive influx of illegal labor into the markets I was competing for work in.

In 2001, “the guys were making less money or the about the same amount of money as they were making in 1986 because of the constant inflow of illegal labor into the construction market,” he said. When “we had labor shortages before, we imported labor from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Midwest … [now] we have people from all over Central America, and the Caribbean and South America.” 

Honest businesses which hire legal workers are undercut by business who hire illegals, he said, adding “legal business have hard time competing with businesses that operate illegally.”

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