Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters on March 10 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Editor’s Note: Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

In the coming weeks, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature is expected to pass a package of immigration measures championed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. These proposals are the harshest crackdown on illegal immigration by a state in over a decade. “We need to do everything in our power to protect the people of Florida from what’s going on at the border and the border crisis,” DeSantis said at a February press conference.

Raul A. Reyes

Unfortunately, the proposals from DeSantis will not help solve the border crisis, let alone protect residents of the Sunshine State. The measures he is backing are likely unconstitutional and certainly impractical. They will harm undocumented immigrants, their families and other Floridians. If enacted, the measures hold the potential to seriously damage the state’s economy, as its agriculture, hospitality and service sectors depend heavily on immigrant workers. The American Immigration Council estimates that immigrants make up over a quarter of the state’s labor force.

Under the proposed legislation, people sheltering, hiring, or transporting undocumented immigrants would face felony charges. Hospitals would be required to ask patients their immigration status and then report it to the state. The measures would invalidate out-of-state drivers’ licenses issued to undocumented immigrants.

If some of these ideas sound familiar, that’s because several states have tried to enact similar laws in the past. ArizonaAlabama and Georgia tried their own versions of strict immigration laws, only to have them largely struck down by the courts. The Supreme Court was clear in US v Arizona (2012) that immigration policy is the jurisdiction of the federal government, and it is hard to see how DeSantis can get around this established precedent. No matter how angry he may be about what he views as President Joe Biden’s “open borders” policy, DeSantis cannot lawfully take immigration matters into his own hands.

Legal issues aside, the governor’s ideas really don’t make sense in a state where the Migration Policy Institute estimates one in five residents is an immigrant, including 772,000 who are undocumented.

Because Florida’s proposed immigration measures are written so broadly, all kinds of everyday activities could become a crime for people living there. This would include citizens and legal residents, like a pastor who gives an undocumented immigrant a ride to church, a landlord who rents to a family with an undocumented member, or a person who hires an undocumented caregiver for their elderly parents. The measures would also force state and local law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents, diverting time and resources away from serious offenses.

The provision of the proposed law involving hospitals is especially problematic. If Florida hospitals begin asking patients’ immigration status, it will lead to undocumented people avoiding medical treatment for themselves or for their children. Research shows that even lawfully present immigrants avoid accessing health care due to language barriers, confusion, or fear, and these fears are heightened when immigrants are undocumented. You don’t have to be a medical expert to recognize that Florida’s plan could result in serious emergencies, needless suffering and the possibility of a broader public health crisis.

It’s no wonder that the DeSantis plan is generating pushback among some Floridians. Religious leaders are concerned that the proposals could hinder their outreach efforts in immigrant communities. Some conservatives view these immigration measures as a potential intrusion by big government, while Latino advocacy groups see them as an invitation to racial profiling by law enforcement.

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True, DeSantis is rightly concerned about illegal immigration and its impact on Florida. But unauthorized border crossings have been trending downward, with US Customs and Border Protection reporting that last month’s numbers were lower than in March 2022 or March 2021. The governor’s proposal won’t fix the situation at the border anyway. It will simply make life harder for Florida’s undocumented immigrants and anyone who comes into their lives. It is ironic that the same governor who sent Venezuelan asylum-seekers to Martha’s Vineyard last year, now wants to make transporting unauthorized migrants a crime.

With his immigration crackdown, it appears that DeSantis is hoping to improve his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination should he run. Yet running as a Trump wannabe is no winning strategy. DeSantis trails the former president by double digits in a new Quinnipiac poll, so the governor should maybe consider a new approach. Perhaps he can join the Republican governors of Utah and Indiana, who have called for immigration reform, or at least come up with more nuanced ideas for his home state.

The plan by Gov. DeSantis to punish undocumented people in his state is both divisive and destructive, and goes against his state’s long tradition of being a haven for immigrants. His legislation represents an attack on Florida families, immigrant communities and American citizens.