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During oral arguments in Arizona v. U.S. (2012), Justice Scalia asked, "What does sovereignty mean if it does not include the ability to defend your borders?" In that context, he wasn’t referring to the federal government, but to state sovereignty. Now, Gov. Ron DeSantis is testing his theory and challenging the court’s erroneous ruling in that case by pushing legislation directly enabling the state to enforce parts of immigration law pertaining to state sovereignty. With a corrupt federal government causing 6 million apprehensions and nearly 2 million gotaways since 2021, the only way to stem this unsustainable invasion is for red states to cut off the magnets.
The Florida legislature is moving to pass a bill that will finally defend state sovereignty from the invasion. It would require public and private employers with more than 25 workers to check legal status of prospective workers through the E-Verify system. All employers will be on the hook for losing their business licenses for hiring illegal aliens.
Unlike some other red states that officially require E-Verify, this one would come with enforcement mechanisms to create the deterrent that is clearly lacking in the other states. Under SB 1718, which passed the Senate 27-10 on Friday, the Department of Economic Opportunity would be empowered to fine an employer $1,000 per day per illegal alien until the infraction is resolved. Employers would also face suspension of their business license. Most Republican governors turn a blind eye to the big agriculture companies trafficking in slave labor and do not enforce these employment laws. The expectations of the DeSantis administration are obviously very different.
Furthermore, SB 1718 places Florida squarely in charge of enforcing its sovereignty, something states have shied away from for years. The bill provides another $12 million in funding to remove illegal aliens from the state in a similar vein to the way the governor flew a planeload of illegal aliens last year to Martha’s Vineyard. Most importantly, the bill makes it a felony to transport illegal aliens to the state. Additionally, the bill enhances human smuggling penalties for those smuggling a minor, more than five people, or when the defendant has a prior conviction for human smuggling.
In other words, it finally makes illegal immigration illegal. No benefits, no transportation, no indulgence.
SB 1718 nullifies any forms of ID granted by local governments or other state governments, thus refusing to recognize driver’s licenses from the states that grant them to illegal aliens. As such, individuals caught driving with those licenses in Florida will be subject to prosecution as if they are driving without a license. Also, using a fake ID to gain employment would become a felony. So the bill essentially denudes illegal aliens of the ability to function within the state.
Finally, in recognition that much of this battle is a public relations war, the bill requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to tally the patient load and cost of illegal aliens who enjoy services in the hospitals. They will give each patient an admission form to indicate whether they are here legally. This will allow Florida to highlight the true cost of illegal immigration, which is a lot more than people think.
If every red state would enact similar laws, it would have the effect of either deterring illegal immigration altogether or at least diverting illegal immigrants to blue states.
The reality is that we can’t wait until 2025 with the possibility of a new president for change. Congressional Republicans do not control enforcement and, at best, will just throw more money at the DHS, which will be used for more federally sponsored smuggling activities. The only way to deter illegal immigration at this point is to actually make it illegal for migrants to operate within the states themselves.
It's too bad that DeSantis is not governor of Texas, where he could make an even bigger impact on the border itself. SB 1621, Texas’ universal E-Verify bill, is still stuck in a Senate committee, and Governor Greg Abbott has not voiced support for it. Texas needs to follow Florida’s lead, not only with interior enforcement, but because of the state’s geography, Texans are tasked with repelling the invasion. Over the weekend, there was a rally in support of Texas HB 20, proposed by Rep. Matt Schaefer, which would create a special state border enforcement unit to repel the invasion rather than simply helping the DHS apprehend (and then process) illegal aliens, which is what Operation Lone Star has accomplished until now. The bill would also make trespassing on private property by illegal invaders a state felony.
The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Brian Birdwell, would prescribe jail time for a person caught re-entering after being removed and a life sentence for convicted felons caught re-entering. These bills are among the most important in the nation being debated in legislatures this week.
Unfortunately, most other red state have failed to take the issue seriously. Despite a supermajority trifecta, Indiana’s capital has declared itself a sanctuary without any response from the state’s governing Republicans. Other state governors, such as Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, have actually tried to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.
Every Republican will campaign on Biden’s border crisis, but if the governors and legislatures fail to take action themselves, they are complicit in the crisis. States have enormous influence in dissuading illegal aliens to come in the first place, because ultimately illegal aliens need benefits, employment, transportation, and identity to remain here.
Often, red-state governors hide behind terrible Supreme Court rulings, such as Arizona v. U.S., in which the high court indicated that states cannot complement and supplement federal immigration law in many circumstances. However, with a new makeup of the court, there is no reason why states shouldn’t set up direct challenges to past erroneous rulings, as they did with Dobbs on abortion. Just as Florida recently set up a direct challenge to Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008) in proposing the death penalty for child rapists, so too they must challenge the Arizona ruling. As Scalia warned in a rhetorical question in his dissent on that case:
Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws? A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding?After 8 million illegal incursions by people from over 150 countries within just two years, we know the answer.
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Blaze Podcast Host
Daniel Horowitz is the host of “Conservative Review with Daniel Horowitz” and a senior editor for Blaze News.