Gov. Scott vetoes immigrant driver’s license bill

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Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday vetoed a bill intended to help young undocumented immigrants get driver’s licenses, saying a White House policy linked to the measure was never approved by Congress, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.

Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, called the veto a missed opportunity for the governor to help foreigners who come to Florida and expects the rejection to be seen as “anti-Hispanic” at a time when the Republican Party has sought to boost its appeal among minorities.

“It’s hard for people to realize the America dream if you don’t have a driver license and most jobs require you to commute, so I think it’s more than symbolic,” Soto said. “It’s something that is needed in America to succeed.”

Scott wrote in his veto letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner that while the legislation (HB 235) was well intentioned, the measure “should not have been done by relying on a federal government policy adopted without legal basis.”

The bill was tied to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s June 2012 memo that established a “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” 

The process, while neither conferring citizenship nor permanent-resident status, grants a two year non-deportation promise to undocumented immigrants under 30 who don’t have criminal records, arrived in America before they were 16, lived in the country for at least five years, and were enrolled or graduated from high school or a university or had been honorably discharged from the U.S. military. 

“Deferred action status is simply a policy of the Obama Administration, absent congressional direction, designed to dictate removal action decisions using DHS agency discretion,” Scott wrote. “It was never passed by Congress, nor is it a promulgated rule. Given that deferred action status does not confer substantive rights or lawful status upon an individual, Florida is best served by relying on current state law.”

The bill would have added deferred-action status to the list of documents that the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles could accept as proof of identity or legal presence for driver’s license applications.

A temporary driver’s license issued under the bill would expire the date the deferred-action exemption expired or after one year.

The measure was unanimously approved by the Florida Senate and received only two dissenting votes in the House.

The Florida Democratic Party, in issuing a release saying Scott “continues to alienate and discriminate,” estimated that the bill would have impacted more than 100,000 undocumented immigrants in Florida.

“We have huge Hispanic and Creole populations here in the state Florida … and the governor basically is saying they don’t deserve a driver’s license if they qualify under deferred action under the federal law,” Soto said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.