Politics

Gov. Scott on DACA: ‘These kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream’

Gov. Rick Scott said Congress should protect immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.
Gov. Rick Scott said Congress should protect immigrants brought into the country illegally as children. jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged President Donald Trump on Friday not to summarily end an Obama-era program that protects from deportation immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.

Amid rampant speculation that Trump on Tuesday will stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Scott said in a statement that DACA recipients should be given a reprieve.

“I do not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents,” Scott said. “These kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream, and Congress must act on this immediately.”

He endorsed legislation filed by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis that would offer an eventual path to citizenship to immigrants who arrived illegally before Jan. 1, 2012, and were 16 or younger when they entered.

Those people have been dubbed “Dreamers,” after the failed legislation that first attempted to give them legal status, the DREAM Act.

“We love the Dreamers,” Trump told reporters Friday. “We love everybody.”

The governor’s statement marked a rare break with Trump, Scott’s Republican ally and longtime friend. Scott chaired a Trump political action committee during the 2016 presidential campaign and has been a frequent visitor to the White House. Most recently, Scott visited Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, for lunch with the president.

The timing of Scott’s statement — it was released at 6 p.m. Friday ahead of the long Labor Day weekend — appeared intended to embarrass Trump as little as possible. Scott is a likely 2018 U.S. Senate candidate. With no other Republicans expected to run to Scott’s right in a primary, taking a moderate approach on DACA could win the governor some centrist voters.

On Friday, Scott made no mention of Trump, and said former President Barack Obama “was wrong” to create DACA through an executive action.

“But this issue must be addressed,” Scott said.

“I want to be very clear: I oppose illegal immigration, and everything else that is illegal,” he continued. “We must secure our borders and the federal government is irresponsible in not doing so. Every single bit of immigration policy becomes much simpler once we secure our borders and put an end to illegal immigration.”

Republicans do not have votes to pass Curbelo’s or Tillis’ legislation now. But House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday that the White House should let Congress take a vote before, say, allowing work permits for existing DACA recipients to expire.

“I believe this is something Congress has to fix,” Ryan said.

Curbelo and two other Miami House Republicans, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have also said the issue should be left up to lawmakers rather than the president.

“We can’t allow these young folks to become a criminal class,” Ros-Lehtinen tweeted.

Billionaire Miami political donor Mike Fernandez revealed Friday that he’s asked Curbelo — whom he praised for his legislative work on the issue — to help him schedule a meeting with Ryan to press DACA recipients’ case.

“No stone can be left unturned,” Curbelo wrote in an email to Fernandez. “I feel good about a legislative fix before the end of the year. Had a good conversation with Paul. Will work on a meeting for you this month.”

Miami Herald Washington correspondent Alex Daugherty contributed to this report.

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