Gov. Scott vetoes immigrant driver license bill; Hispanic lawmakers call action 'unconscionable';
Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have allowed children of immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to get Florida driver licenses. Scott said he vetoed HB 235 because it would have benefited people who are covered by a change in federal policy instituted by President Barack Obama last year.
Under the policy known as "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," or DACA, young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children are not subject to removal for two years if they meet certain criteria.
"Deferred action status is simply a policy of the Obama administration absent Congressional direction, designed to dictate removal action decisions using DHS (Department of Homeland Security) agency discretion," Scott wrote in a veto message. "It was never passed by Congress, nor is it a promulgated rule."
The five-page bill passed the Senate 36-0 and the House 115-2; the lone dissenters were Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach. Tobia voted against dozens of bills in the latter part of the decision as an act of protest.
Scott's veto may bolster his standing among hard-liners on immigration who were disappointed that he abandoned talk of an Arizona-style anti-immigration law after he got elected in 2010. But it could hurt him with Hispanics, a segment of the electorate already alienated from the Republican Party.
Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, called Scott's action "simply unconscionable" and predicted that Scott's veto will seriously hurt his standing with Hispanic voters going into the 2014 election. "This was a chance for him to help out a lot of Hispanics in our state as well as people of Creole descent," Soto said. "It strikes me as very political."
The Florida Democratic Party excoriated the Republican governor's action. "Rick Scott continues to alienate and discriminate against thousands of undocumented immigrants. Instead of joining the legislature's near-unanmous consensus around HB 235, Governor Scott imposed his rigid ideology on Floridians — to the detriment of the young immigrants who are Florida's future," said party spokesman Joshua Karp. "This measure would have improved the everyday lives of thousands of undocumented immigrants. With a driver's license, undocumented young people can drive to school or their jobs without the threat of being thrown into jail or deported."