Gov. Rick Scott is not a candidate for the U.S. Senate -- not yet -- but Democrats aren’t waiting for the formality of an announcement to cast him as an opportunist rewriting his own record in an election year.
Scott has repeatedly drawn fire for shifting positions on education, the environment and offshore oil drilling. The latest case in point is immigration.
Democrats on Friday pounced on Scott’s latest op-ed in USA Today in which he called for a compassionate approach to the treatment of young immigrants known as DREAMers, while still supporting President Donald J. Trump’s stricter border controls.
In addressing a nationwide audience, Scott largely blamed Congress, and not his fellow Republicans or Trump, for the failure of the federal government to resolve the status of DREAMers.
"I’ve long been an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration and I remain so," Scott wrote under the byline of an “opinion contributor” to USA Today. "But I refuse to watch these children be punished for the actions of their parents." Read Scott’s article here.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton led the charge, saying it’s obvious that Scott sees political gain in recasting himself as a moderate on immigration.
“The governor cannot hide from his record,” Deutch said, “and he can’t pick and choose when to demonize immigrants and when to pretend to be their savior.”
Deutch said that as a private hospital executive, Scott supported policies to discourage hiring Hispanics. As a first-time candidate in 2010, Deutch said, Scott favored tougher “Arizona-style” immigration restrictions to appease tea party supporters.
Deutch said the Scott administration’s unsuccessful efforts to purge the voter rolls of suspected non-citizens in 2012 had the effect of targeting Hispanics more than other groups. A federal judge ruled that the effort was illegal and it ended.
“Governor Scott being a DREAMer champion is fake news,” said Cristian Avila of an immigrant organization, Mi Familia Vota. Avila, 27, is a Phoenix resident who has been politically active in Florida and is one of about 800,000 people in the program known as DACA, for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The coordinated attack on Scott’s record was organized by For Our Future, a liberal Super PAC backed by four major labor unions and the wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer.
The conference call provided a small flavor of the intensity of criticism Scott will face if, as is widely expected, he challenges three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
State Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, the House Democratic leader, joined in the criticism, and Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, said that when the DREAM Act came before Congress in 2010, Scott strongly opposed it but is now a supporter.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Farmer said. “So far, Rick Scott’s actions have shown nothing but contempt for DREAMers and their families.”