June 28, 2023

Top 5 Things to Know About SB 1718, Florida’s New Immigration Law

The Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 1718 in the 2023 session, which covers over a dozen policy areas that target Floridians without a documented immigration status.  SB 1718 began as a proposal from Gov. Ron DeSantis. Most of his recommendations — except for a repeal of Florida’s tuition equity law[1] — made it into the final bill, despite myriad proposed amendments and suggestions. However, Florida Policy Institute and partners’ collective advocacy led to substantial improvements on two key provisions in the human smuggling language and the E-Verify mandate.[2]

The law, which goes into effect July 1, 2023,[3] is already causing fear and confusion among immigrants, employers, health care professionals, and others. Below, FPI summarizes five things that people should know about SB 1718, complementing ongoing community efforts to educate Floridians about the measure’s most notable provisions. 

1.The law does not allow hospitals to reveal someone’s immigration status or refuse them care. 

Starting July 1, all hospitals that accept Medicaid — there are 323 of them in Florida — must ask admitted patients and emergency room visitors their immigration status. However, patients can decline to share whether they are immigrants or not. Hospitals must also tell patients that their individual immigration status will not be shared with authorities or impact care.

However, patients can decline to share whether they are immigrants or not.

Quarterly, hospitals must report the number of patients served and costs of care to the state, broken down by categories: 1) Is a U.S. citizen/lawfully present, 2) Is not lawfully present, or 3) Declined to answer. The data reported to the state only shares collective patients served with no personally identifiable information. ­­­

2. The law impacts undocumented workers and their employers.

Two of the sections in SB 1718 apply to workers without a “lawful” status (i.e., undocumented immigrants). The first punishes both workers and employers:

  • If undocumented workers falsify information to obtain employment, they will be subject to a third-degree felony (up to a $5,000 fine or five years in prison).
  • If employers knowingly hire or recruit undocumented workers, they are subject to penalties, including one-year probation with the Department of Economic Opportunity; repaying of economic development incentives; and additional penalties for subsequent violations.[4]

 New E-Verify regulations

The second section requires all employers with more than 25 employees to use the federal E-Verify system, an internet-based system operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to ensure new employees — people hired July 1, 2023, or later — are legally authorized to work in the United States. While E-Verify is not required for those hired before July 1, 2023, if an employer learns that a current worker is undocumented, they must fire them.

The new law’s E-Verify provisions do not impact workers hired for​ temporary positions (nor do they apply to independent contractors).

Starting July 2024, if an employer fails to use the E-Verify system three times within two years, they will be fined $1,000 per day and have their business licenses suspended until they comply.

The new law’s E-Verify provisions do not impact workers hired for​ temporary positions (nor do they apply to independent contractors).

3. The law bans transporting undocumented immigrants into Florida, not within or out of the state. 

Under the new law, anyone who transports into the state someone they know (or should have known) is an immigrant without a documented status can be charged with a felony. Each undocumented person transported triggers a separate felony count, either a third- or second-degree, depending on the nature of the crime. While prior versions of the policy also banned transporting within the state and harboring or concealing immigrants, that was left out of the final bill.

A person could be charged with a third-degree felony with up to a $5,000 fine or five years in prison for a first offense where they transported into Florida fewer than five undocumented immigrants at a time. 

Someone could be charged with a second-degree felony up to a $10,000 fine or 10 years in prison for a subsequent offense; transporting five or more undocumented immigrants at a time; or transporting an undocumented child (under age 18) into the state. 

4. The law does not prevent local governments from passing community identification laws. 

Starting July 1, local governments can no longer fund programs issuing community identification (ID) to Floridians who cannot prove they are “lawful” residents (i.e., undocumented immigrants). In practice, this means supporters of community/municipal ID programs will need to identify private funding to start or continue those programs (e.g., private foundation grants, individual donations). This is intended to curb local programs that have popped up to provide IDs to those who cannot obtain a state ID or driver’s license.[5]

This does not negate existing programs or prevent localities from passing new ones; it only prevents localities from funding said programs (directly or through grants to service providers). 

5. The law invalidates driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants from up to 19 states.

When the new law takes effect, undocumented immigrants with out-of-state driver’s licenses issued without proof of “lawful presence” are prohibited from driving in Florida. This includes people working for a federal government contractor who have these types of licenses. If found driving with an invalid license, undocumented immigrants will be issued citations.  Florida must maintain and post an updated list of states issuing invalid licenses. Currently, 19 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico issue such licenses.

When the new law takes effect, undocumented immigrants with out-of-state driver’s licenses issued without proof of “lawful presence” are prohibited from driving in Florida.

Since law enforcement can already detain and report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities during traffic stops, they may do so when pulling someone over with an invalid out-of-state license.

This may not impact drivers from all the states with inclusive driver’s license laws, as SB 1718 states that invalid licenses are either 1) exclusively issued to undocumented immigrants or 2) with a marking that indicates the license is different than the standard issue. Most states with inclusive driver’s licenses do not fall within either of these categories.[6]



[1] The governor’s proposal included a repeal of Florida’s bipartisan 2014 tuition equity law. This popular law requires that colleges, universities, and postsecondary institutions waive out-of-state tuition for certain undocumented students who graduated from a Florida high school. This provision was left out of the final legislation (SB 1718), thanks in large part to the work of advocacy groups and undocumented youth committed to preserving tuition fairness. 

[2] The original legislation had much broader language and punishments that included felony charges for transporting undocumented immigrants within the state and harboring, concealing, or shielding them from protection. FPI, faith groups, the business community, and others pushed back early in the legislative session, pointing out this could mete out punishment to almost any Floridian who learned of someone’s status. As a result, the final legislation only makes it a felony to transport people who are undocumented into the state.  As for E-Verify, the original Senate bill would have applied to *all* private employers, while the final legislation only applies to those with 25+ employees; the fines were changed to target repeated violations and give employers opportunities to correct the issue, and penalty tiers were added for noncompliance based on the number of undocumented workers businesses employed. Finally, the law applies to employees with a permanent position, so independent contractors do not have to be run through E-Verify. (They would have had to upon contract renewal under the original bill.) 

[3] Overall, SB 1718 goes into effect July 1, 2023. There are two provisions, however, that will not impact Floridians until 2024 or later. Fines of up to $1,000 for employers who fail to use E-Verify three times within two years do not take effect until July 1, 2024, but the rest of the employment verification provisions take effect July 1 of this year. The provision on undocumented law graduates no longer being eligible to practice as lawyers in the state (not discussed in this publication) does not go into effect until November 1, 2028. 

[4] Fines for subsequent violations are tiered based on the number of undocumented workers employed. One to 10 undocumented workers—suspension of all business licenses for up to 30 days; 11 to 50 workers—suspension of all business licenses for up to 60 days; 50-plus workers—revocation of all business licenses.

[5] At least four cities and four counties have passed community ID ordinances, including Bell Glade, Gainesville, Tamarac, West Palm Beach; and Alachua, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties. 

[6] Based on email correspondence between Florida Policy Institute, National Immigration Law Center, and policy analysts in states with driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

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