(Central Plaza) – The Texas Public Policy Foundation and the state representative from north Texas hope the state legislature passes stricter electronic verification laws after a record nearly 1.8 million In fiscal year 2022, illegal foreign nationals were detained in Texas.
With people from over 150 countries flocking to Texas, current state law does not have the provisions that Florida has, enacted by the Florida Legislature and Governor in 2020.
State Representative Matt Shaheen, a Republican from north Dallas, introduced HB 602, which would require political entities to participate in the federal E-Verify work permit program. The political divisions defined in the bill include a county, municipality, school district, junior college district, other special district, or other division of state government.
The bill amends the local government code to require units to register and participate in E-Verify, and to fire employees who do not comply.
It was introduced after a similar bill, HB 1336, failed to pass last session of the Republican-controlled legislature, which required government contractors and political divisions to participate in E-Verify.
The latest meeting passed SB 766, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law to require sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs and massage parlors, which are often used as sex trafficking centers, to participate in E-Verify. This was seen as one way to strengthen the fight against sex trafficking.
In 2015, the Texas legislature passed a bill signed by Abbott requiring government agencies and institutions of higher learning to register and participate in the E-Verify program for all new employees. The Texas Human Resources Commission provides registration information and online forms for the E-Verify program to all agency leaders, directors of staff, and university presidents.
Currently, no state law requires private companies to comply with E-Verify. Critics argue that special interests and Texas businesses that have lobbied against stricter employment screening laws are doing so because they can exploit migrants to profit from cheap labor and inadvertently or intentionally engage in forced labor and human trafficking.
Like law enforcement officers explained to Central Square, those smuggled into Texas work in hotels or other businesses, “work for the cartels” that hold their passports, control their movements, and oversee their forced labor and living conditions.
The cartels and their affiliated gang operatives “extract rent and food from their modern-day slaves, acting as contractors dividing the money among the workers. A one-bedroom apartment can accommodate up to 15 people,” Goliad County Sheriff Roy Boyd, who leads the Operation Lone Star task force, told The Center Square. Those who are sold for forced labor “may work for one group, and as soon as they are about to pay their debt, they are sold to another group and their debt starts again,” he said.
Businesses involved range from hotels to construction, lawn care, agriculture, health care, transportation, restaurants and others, he said, and profit from cheap labor.
“Employers who knowingly employ illegal migrants often take advantage of them by paying extremely low wages, refusing to pay, or even threatening to report them to ICE,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation said in a statement. analysis. “Employers also routinely use cheap labor provided by undocumented workers to avoid compliance with labor laws that must be followed when hiring American citizens and legal residents.”
Those who are lobbying for stricter employment verification laws, the TPPF argues, “do not really want to reduce the pull of illegal jobs by expanding E-Verify.”
In contrast, Florida has passed stricter electronic verification laws under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In 2020, DeSantis signed into law a law effective July 1, 2021 that requires private employers to certify a potential worker’s eligibility either by E-Verify or by providing documents required by USCIS to verify I-9 employment eligibility . the form.
Private employers are required to keep these records for at least three years after the person’s date of employment and provide them upon request to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which oversees the state’s E-Verify system. The law also requires the FDLE to request an employment review of private companies, notify them of non-compliance, and report violators.
Last month, the government sent notifications six companies in violation of the law, which face the revocation of their state business license and a ban on doing business in Florida.