TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A statewide grand jury put into place by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to investigate migrant-related issues called on state legislators to impose new restrictions on immigration — including a tax on all wire transfers of money overseas.
In a 146-page report released Monday, the grand jury also urged lawmakers to put additional restrictions on businesses, including requiring all employers to check the names of prospective employees against a federal immigration database. DeSantis got legislators to pass a E-Verify mandate earlier this year, but it only applied to private companies with 25 or more employees amid a behind-the-scenes pushback from business lobbyists.
Illegal immigration remains a key issue in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trail. During his run for president, DeSantis has faulted former President Donald Trump for failing to get Mexico to pay for Trump’s promised border wall. DeSantis has asserted during multiple campaign stops that he would place a charge on remittances to Mexico and other countries to help pay for border enforcement.
“When he’s saying that he couldn’t get the job done, look, I wanted to send the message: I will get the job done. I’m not going to make excuses,” DeSantis said during an October interview with NewsNation.
The grand jury report calls for what it describes as a “modest” fee charged to customers similar to one imposed by the state of Oklahoma that could be around 1.5 percent per wire transfer. The grand jury claims that such a fee — which would likely require a supermajority vote in the Legislature to be approved — could generate tens of millions that could pay for beefed up enforcement, education, or money to help state agencies deal with unaccompanied migrant children.
The report suggests that those engaged in legitimate money transfers could get a refund. But such a tax could have a dramatic impact in places such as South Florida, which has a diaspora of people who have left Latin American and the Caribbean and send money back to relatives.
The governor’s office did not immediately comment on the report’s recommendations. But Florida’s Republican governor has been a loud and vocal critic of the Biden administration’s handling of immigration and has spent millions on efforts, such as sending Florida law-enforcement to the Texas border and flying migrants who crossed into the country to Martha’s Vineyard and California.
In the summer of 2022, DeSantis petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate the transport of unaccompanied children and migrants into the state and whether local authorities were refusing to work with federal immigration authorities.
The grand jury, made up of residents from three Republican-leaning counties, has now issued five reports. The latest one was sharply critical of the Biden administration’s handling of immigration while at the same time contended that Florida residents are ignoring the situation. The report estimated that as many as 1 million of Florida’s nearly 23 million residents are in the state illegally.
“We learned that, if anything, many Floridians are (just as we were before undertaking this inquiry) almost dangerously naive and unaware of the true magnitude and malevolence of the illegal immigration industry,” the report states in its introduction.
The grand jury did its investigation with the assistance of a statewide prosecutor who works for Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has sued the Biden administration over its immigration policies.
Moody, in a statement, sidestepped the actual recommendations of the grand jury and instead called the report a “damning indictment of the Biden administration’s complete failure to protect our border and the tens of thousands of immigrant children being smuggled into our country and in some instances, trafficked.”
Some Democrats and advocates for immigrants expressed alarm at the tone of the report.
“Based on this report, we can expect more incendiary language and policies next legislative session targeting immigrants,” State Rep. Anna Eskamani said in a social media post.
The report included a full slate of recommendations beyond just new fees on wire transfers or revisiting E-Verify requirements. The grand jury — without disclosing any names — also blasted non-government organizations involved in immigration that it said refused to cooperate with the probe. The report urged the creation of a separate statewide grand jury to continue to investigate such outfits.
Additionally, the grand jury contended that Miami-Dade County was sidestepping a mandate that local authorities work with federal immigration authorities by citing an exemption from detainer requirements that allows them to be lifted if the person is a witness or the victim of a crime.
The county did not immediately provide a response when asked for comment.
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