The House sponsor of HB 235, which was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott this week, defended the bill as necessary to expedite the ability of children of illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses under the law, despite allegations to the contrary by the Florida Department of Highway Safety.
Rep. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, said he sponsored the bill -- which passed the House and Senate with only two no votes -- to make it easier for children who qualify to get drivers licenses without having to wait for their federal documents, which often can take months. Scott vetoed the bill at the request of his Tea Party following, saying it relied on an administrative policy that hadn't been approved by Congress.
"As a result of Governor Scott’s veto, some people may have to wait a year before they can drive,'' Bracy wrote in a letter to Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles director Julie Jones. "A year can mean lost wages because of no transportation. A year could mean a wasted opportunity of a year of learning. That may not seem like a long time, but to the people of the immigrant community who have been waiting for this opportunity their entire life, this wait could be an eternity!"
Here's Bracy's letter:
June 7, 2013
Julie L. Jones
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
Dear Director Jones:
I write this letter to clarify mischaracterizations of House Bill 235 and to further emphasize its urgent necessity. Leslie Palmer, communications director for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, remarked in a recent news article that HB 235 would have had no practical effect. She further stated that the Department does “accept Social Security cards and unexpired employment authorizations as proof of legal status” for identity purposes. While this may be true, these documents are not always readily available. What often happens for a Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient is that, if approved, they are sent an approval letter first. Sometime afterward, the immigrants are sent an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which allows them to work lawfully in the United States. Frequently, the work authorization document comes three months or more after the approval letter.
House Bill 235, which I sponsored, would have allowed the DACA (Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals) recipient to take the approval letter to the Department and get a license instead of waiting for the Employment Authorization Document. After a DACA recipient receives these two documents, then they can apply for their Social Security Card. It can take even more time to receive the requested Social Security Number. In a worst case scenario, after receiving an approval letter, a DACA recipient would have to wait six months to a year before they would have the necessary documents to get a temporary driver’s license.
By her remarks, Ms. Palmer suggests there is no practical effect of this bill. I wholeheartedly disagree. As a result of Governor Scott’s veto, some people may have to wait a year before they can drive. A year can mean lost wages because of no transportation. A year could mean a wasted opportunity of a year of learning. That may not seem like a long time, but to the people of the immigrant community who have been waiting for this opportunity their entire life, this wait could be an eternity!
House Bill 235 would have expedited the process to obtain a temporary driver license for those persons in the Hispanic, Haitian and other immigrant communities who are in desperate need of a chance, a job and a future. Scott's veto of HB 235 thwarted this opportunity.
State Representative, District 45