Florida immigration law could impact state’s construction industry

Expert says measured signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis could increase prices, inflation

Governor Ron DeSantis with the Florida Capitol building
Governor Ron DeSantis with the Florida Capitol building (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

A new immigration law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week is expected to have a significant impact on the state’s construction industry.

The law, which DeSantis signed Wednesday and goes into effect July 1, requires private employers with 25 or more employees to confirm workers’ immigration status through the E-Verify system, according to Construction Dive.

The measure has already had an impact, with some employees in the construction and agricultural industries not showing up to work and leaving the state, CBS Miami reported.

The law will also likely have an effect on how employers — who could be subject to audits and face fines of up to $1,000 if they are found to have violated the law — do business in the state, according to some experts.

“I anticipate this law will result in further segmentation of the industry with smaller subcontractor labor groups falling under the 25-employee limit to avoid compliance with E-Verify, Trent Cotney, partner for Tampa-based Adams and Reese LLP, told Construction Dive. “Construction, in particular, faces a shortfall of workers as evidenced by the dramatic rise in the use of sub-labor.”

Others have said the law, which proponents say will strengthen the state economy and buttress security, will have the opposite effect.

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“This legislation will likely have a detrimental effect on the economy here in [Florida], because it will make freedom of contract and freedom to labor harder to actually exercise — and this may have negative effects on consumer prices and on inflation consequently,” Jill Maskivker, professor of political science at Rollins College, told Construction Dive. “What happens when laws get stricter about undocumented labor is that many of these workers may cease to pay taxes … prompted by fear of deportation. Everybody loses when this happens, not just employers and not just workers.”

DeSantis, who is a possible Republican presidential candidate, has not been shy in taking on controversial issues.

The governor has been locked in a highly publicized battle with Disney, Florida’s largest employer, after the company announced it was suspending political donations following the passage of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law that restricts the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.

That resulted in a pitched battle between the governor and the House of Mouse, with the state legislature earlier this year stripping the company of the ability of appointing members to its special tax district and giving that authority to the governor. 

Disney, for its part, has sued the state, claiming the measures taken against it violates the First Amendment.

— Ted Glanzer