Once again, Gov. Rick Scott has refused to accept public policy established by the Obama administration that benefits Florida. And once again, the state will suffer because of his partisan gamesmanship. The Republican governor's veto of legislation that would have allowed undocumented immigrants with a new temporary status to obtain a driver's license ignores reality and common sense. Now tens of thousands of younger undocumented immigrants who live in our neighborhoods and attend our schools are just more collateral damage in Scott's war with Washington.
The legislation that would have allowed younger undocumented immigrants with deferred action status to receive a driver's license passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. It eventually could have benefited roughly 100,000 younger people who already are in Florida — and many of them already may be driving illegally. A driver's license would make it easier for these young people to continue contributing to our communities, buy auto insurance and come another step out of the shadows.
Yet Scott vetoed the bill and resorted to tortured logic. He criticized the federal government for failing to enforce immigration laws and dismissed deferred action status as an Obama administration policy not approved by Congress. This is a governor whose disdain for the Democratic president and disregard of the federal executive branch knows no bounds.
The Obama policy announced a year ago offers deferred action status to illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States before they turned 16 years old and were at least 15 but under 31 in June 2012. They must not be convicted of a major crime and they must be in school, a high school graduate or honorably discharged from the military. These are young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children, grew up here, obeyed the rules and became part of our neighborhoods. The deferred status is good for two years and can be renewed, but it is neither amnesty nor a guaranteed path to citizenship. More than 20,000 applications already have been accepted from Florida, and states such as North Carolina, California and Illinois will issue drivers' licenses to those granted deferred action status.
But not Florida. State policy already allows undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses if they have a federal employment card — which can come after someone is granted deferred status. Yet Scott could not embrace one more step to help tens of thousands of young undocumented immigrants. His veto indicates he remains as out of touch as ever with the practical realities in the neighborhoods of Florida's melting pot.