As Gov. Rick Scott pushes to broaden support for reelection he has reversed course and backed more money for K-12 education and keeping college tuition affordable — both popular measures with most Floridians. Unfortunately, the governor issued a veto last week that was as short-sighted as it was mean-spirited for one group of students: the so-called Dreamers.
The bill, passed almost unanimously by the Republican-led Legislature, would have allowed teenage or adult children of undocumented immigrants to get a temporary driver’s license once they have been approved by the federal government for “deferred action” to work under the Obama administration’s new policy that began last summer. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Florida was among the first states to require immigration papers for a driver’s license.
In his veto message, Gov. Scott questioned the policy that President Obama started last June. “It was never passed by Congress, nor is it a promulgated rule,” the governor wrote. “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.”
No, it’s not. Florida is best served by bright, hard-working people who want to thrive in our society. The Dreamers are young people who did not chose to come to the United States without proper paperwork — their parents did. These children have grown up American and want to contribute to our society. They are now legally here under rules that allow it — and not all such rules have to be passed by Congress. Deferred action has been used in many immigration cases over many years. In this case, any young adult under age 31, who arrived here before turning 16, is in school or has graduated or wants to serve in the military and has no felony conviction can apply for deferred status.
As it stands, young immigrants who have been approved through deferred action can apply for a driver’s license once they have a work permit, and some already have obtained their driver’s license in Florida. The legislation would have clarified state law so that obtaining a driver’s license wouldn’t become another stumbling block to legality. The governor just set up a huge obstacle.
“Now Dreamers in Florida with no criminal history will have work permits but won’t be able to drive to school or to work — that is nonsense,” noted state Rep. José Javier Rodriguez, one of the bill’s sponsors. He’s right.
Earned sick time
Meanwhile, the governor has another bill on his desk, HB 655, which he should veto.
The legislation would outlaw any local ordinance that allows working families to earn sick time at work. The vast majority of Florida voters support earned sick time, according to several polls. Local communities should have the opportunity to decide for themselves, but a citizen-led referendum in Orange County that’s up for a vote next year seems to have upped the ante.
Already, women with strollers filled with thousands of petitions seeking a veto of HB 655 have made their way to Tallahassee to press the governor for his support.
Having turned his back on the children of immigrants, Gov. Scott should consider what earned sick time would do to help all working parents become productive and loyal employees while they balance family obligations.
It shouldn’t be an either-or proposition. Let the voters decide.