Backroom Briefing: Eyeing Florida’s immigration law

migrants at the U.S. border, American flag, barbed wire
By Stadratte via iStock for WMNF News.

Weekly political notes from The News Service of Florida

By Jim Turner ©2023 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson expressed concern a new Florida immigration law could bring “unintended consequences” to the construction and tourism industries.

But in defending the law (SB 1718), which went into effect July 1, Simpson stressed during an appearance on the “Deeper Dive with Dara Kam” podcast that the federal government needs to bolster border protections.

The law includes changes such as requiring businesses with more than 25 employees to use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of workers.

Simpson, a Republican whose business holdings include a sizable egg farm, said “anecdotal evidence” indicates the law could result in higher costs as infrastructure takes longer to complete and wages are pushed up, “which leads to more inflation.”

“I do think that there are unintended consequences in our construction industry, in our hotel, restaurant lodging association,” Simpson said. “And I don’t know that we fully understand the downside to the new law. I know the intentions were good. But, again, this is a federal issue that needs to be resolved at the federal level.”

Simpson said the law, a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis, can help stem the tide of undocumented workers and drugs ending up in Florida after crossing the Mexican border.

Simpson added that farmers are “introducing themselves” to the federal H-2A program, which is designed to bring in foreign workers to perform seasonal and temporary work.

The law is among a series of measures adopted by state Republican leaders in recent years targeting immigrants entering the country from Mexico.

Last month, migrant workers and advocates filed a federal lawsuit challenging part of the law that makes it a felony to transport into the state people who enter the country illegally. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that part of the law is too vague.

DeSantis, who is running for president in 2024, and state Attorney General Ashley Moody have battled the Biden administration in federal court over border policies. DeSantis also has drawn national headlines and lawsuits for Florida-sponsored charter flights that brought migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts last September and Sacramento, Calif., in June.

The “Deeper Dive with Dara Kam” podcast is hosted by News Service of Florida senior writer Dara Kam in conjunction with City & State Florida.


DeSantis reiterated Wednesday he’s up for a debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Appearing on Fox News, DeSantis replied, “absolutely, I’m game,” when asked by host Sean Hannity if he’d accept a debate offer from Newsom.

“Just tell me when and where, we’ll do it,” DeSantis said.

Newsom’s office in a statement said it will offer dates of Nov. 8 or Nov. 10 for an event that would be moderated by Hannity.

“Gov. Newsom has been challenging DeSantis to debate for months and sent him a formal debate offer last week,” Newsom’s office said in a news release. “DeSantis should put up or shut up. Anything else is just games.”

DeSantis will be part of an Aug. 23 televised panel of GOP presidential hopefuls, though it remains unclear whether former President Donald Trump will take part. DeSantis said a debate with Newsom could be “for the future of our country.”

“You have people like (President) Joe Biden, they would love to see the Californication of the United States,” DeSantis told Hannity. “Biden may not even be the nominee. You could have Gavin Newsom. You could have (Vice President) Kamala Harris. And I think if we go down that direction, that’s going to accelerate American decline.”

The two governors have repeatedly used each other as foils to contrast stances on issues from guns and abortion to immigration and the economy.

Newsom called for a debate when he appeared on Hannity’s show in June, after Florida flew a group of migrants from Texas to Sacramento.

“I would do it one day’s notice with no notes,” Newsom said in June. “I look forward to that.”

This isn’t the first time DeSantis — who is in the process of rebooting his presidential campaign — has said he’d debate Newsom, who isn’t running for president.

When signing Florida’s budget on June 15 in Fort Pierce, DeSantis said he would debate, before adding that Newsom should “stop pussyfooting around” on running for president in 2024.

Shortly after the budget-signing event, DeSantis’ campaign team offered T-shirts featuring the “pussyfooting” challenge.


As he seeks a second term in Washington, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott on Wednesday rolled out a national finance committee topped by a bunch of familiar names from past Republican campaigns.

While Democrats have struggled to find big-name candidates to enter the race, Scott said in a news release that national Democrats “are going to spend millions upon millions to air false attacks and lies against me.”

Scott has dipped heavily into his personal money for past gubernatorial and Senate campaigns, but his “honorary finance co-chairs” for 2024 include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Also named as honorary co-chairs are U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

“National finance co-chairs” include developer Carlos Beruff, who chairs the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors, and Mel Sembler, a developer and major GOP fundraiser.


“I’m so over conference realignment talk. Can we just get to the season already???!!” — Football analyst and former Florida State University quarterback Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) on X.

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