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Politics

Gov. Scott's veto of youth immigrant licenses faces criticism


Published:   |   Updated: June 11, 2013 at 04:24 PM

TAMPA ญญ- As Democrats continue their attack on Gov. Rick Scott over his veto of a law allowing driver's licenses for some young immigrants, three prominent Tampa Hispanic political figures held a news conference Tuesday to criticize the action.

Scott's veto was "an absolute outrage" and "a slap in the face to my constituents," said state Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, who appeared along with city council member Charlie Miranda and Hillsborough school board member Susan Valdez at the news conference.

"Where is Gov. Ricardo Scott living?" Cruz said with sarcasm. "He's completely out of touch with Florida and our diverse population."

The law would have allowed driver's licenses for so-called "Dreamers," those young people brought here involuntarily as children by their illegal immigrant families. Many have no memory of their native countries and don't speak any language but English. Nonetheless, they're technically illegal immigrants subject to deportation.

Legislation to allow them legal status and a path to citizenship has failed in Congress. Last year, President Barack Obama issued an executive order granting them deferred action on deportations.

Appearing at the news conference was Carlos Segovia, 20, a rising junior accounting major at Saint Leo University, who was brought illegally to the United States at age 1 by his migrant farmworker family. Segovia hopes to be a lawyer, he said, but can't legally get a driver's license in Florida.

Last spring, by near-unanimous votes in both houses, the Florida Legislature passed a bill allowing young people in Segovia's situation to get a temporary license once they have the federal certificate Obama enabled, promising deferred action on deportation.

Vetoing the bill, Scott repeated an argument made by some conservatives that Obama's executive order was illegal because it wasn't approved by Congress.

He said the Legislature "may have been well intentioned ... (but) it should not have been done by relying on a federal government policy adopted without legal basis."

Scott noted that Florida law already allows licenses for those with a federal work permit.

Advocates say, however, that getting a work permit and the social security status that goes with it can take up to a year, during which time the applicant can't drive and, therefore, often can't work.

Segovia said as a child, he often missed entire school years as his family moved from state to state working crops, sometimes hiding in onion fields to avoid immigration agents.

"It's not my fault that I'm here ... this is my home," he said.

If he could talk to Scott, he said, "I'd ask him why ... don't hold me accountable for something my parents did."

Florida Democrats have made Scott's veto into a cause, issuing a blizzard of news releases. They accuse Scott of vetoing the bill in an attempting to regain favor with his base among tea party-style conservatives, but suggest it will drive Hispanics further toward the Democratic Party.

The 2014 race for governor "is right around the corner," said Valdes.

wmarch@tampatrib.com

813-259-7761

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