Sarasota state Sen. Joe Gruters is gearing up for another big push on immigration in 2020

After spearheading the sanctuary city ban that cleared the Florida Legislature to become law this year, state Sen. Joe Gruters is gearing up for another aggressive push on immigration in 2020 that will include E-Verify legislation requiring businesses to check the immigration status of potential new hires.

Gruters, R-Sarasota, said he will partner with Rep. Cord Byrd, who sponsored the sanctuary city bill in the House, on an E-Verify measure, something Gov. Ron DeSantis called for during his campaign.

“Cord and I are already committed to running E-Verify and we’re going to look at other issues, making sure we do what’s right for everyone in our state,” Gruters said Monday.

Gruters recently traveled to the border between the United States and Mexico to emphasize his commitment to the immigration issue. He also announced a statewide listening tour on immigration that will include six stops over three days.
Gruters, who also chairs the Florida GOP, said he’ll gather input from the public and consider additional legislation.

“We’ll see based on the tour what some of these other ideas are,” he said.

The sanctuary ban officially became law Monday. It was one of the most divisive issues of the 2019 legislative session.

The legislation requires government agencies throughout Florida to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. It drew intense opposition from Democrats and immigrant rights activists.

Any effort to push E-Verify also is likely to be met with significant opposition. But much of the resistance to E-Verify has come from businesses that rely on immigrant labor.

Business interests have been successful in thwarting E-Verify in Florida in the past. Gruters said passing the legislation is “not going to be easy.”

“We’re going to try and raise awareness of the issue and how important it is to the state of Florida and we’ll go from there,” he said. “But when you have a governor whose committed to making it happen that gives us a lot of strength behind the bill.”

Gruters met with border guards in El Paso, Texas, during his recent trip to the border and saw barriers that had been erected on the border, along with sections of the border that had no physical barrier preventing people from entering.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” he said.

With Congress unable to reach a deal on immigration reform, Gruters said he hopes to lead the way in Florida.

“We need common sense, real solutions,” he said.

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