Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala joined the chorus of so far mostly Democrats calling for preservation of the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program to let young, undocumented immigrants stay in the United States.
Latvala, the state senator from Clearwater, directed his call not at President Donald Trump, who has signaled he will end the President Barack Obama program as early as Tuesday, but at Congress and the Republican Party.
The push to preserve the program, which provides limited protected status to as many as 800,000 people nationally, and more than 100,000 estimated in Florida, has come out from numerous Democrats, but only a few Republicans, notably U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
“We must lead with a compassionate heart, not by punishing children,” Latvala said in a statement first published on Facebook, then released by his campaign.
“Florida is a diverse state and our economic success depends on a strong diverse workforce. If DACA ends in 6 months it will have a disastrous impact not only on hundreds of thousands of bright, promising young people but also on our business climate.”
Latvala’s statement came shortly after Democrats, notably Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, publicly challenged him and fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam to speak out on the plan.
Latvala then turned that challenge to the rest of Republicans in Florida.
“Congress has dropped the ball on this issue like so many others,” Latvala stated. “It’s time for Congress to pass a law protecting Dreamers. I call on other leaders of the Republican Party in Florida to join me in supporting these children so they can come out of the shadows and legally secure jobs.”
Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, and fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park developer Chris King all issued strong statements supporting DACA and urging its preservation.
Gillum declared that a revocation of DACA would be a “moral stain.” King called such a move “cruel and misguided.” Graham called it “unconscionable.”
Putnam, Florida’s agriculture secretary, has not made a statement regarding DACA.
Democrats have been pushing for weeks to raise awareness of young adults who were brought without visas to America as young children, or who have overstayed their visas while growing up, and the program that allows them to stay under certain conditions.
Those eligible have been dubbed “DREAMers” after the the “Development Relief And Education For Alien Minors” bills filed several times by pro-immigration members of Congress in recent years.