U.S. Senate moves immigration bill as Florida leaders bash Gov. Scott for licenses veto

06/11/13 Janelle Irwin
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By a vote of 82 to 15 Tuesday, the U.S. Senate cleared the way for debate on bi-partisan legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. Even though the procedural vote cleared the Senate by a wide margin, many Republicans have said they won’t support the bill as it is.

It remains likely the legislation will see some changes to border patrol provisions. Before the Senate vote, President Barack Obama appealed to conservatives who are hesitant to give immigrants what some call a free pass.

The president also highlighted the legislation as an economic driver, saying that 40% of Fortune 500 companies were started by first or second generation immigrants. Meanwhile, local officials in the Tampa Bay area lashed out at Governor Rick Scott who vetoed state legislation that would have allowed students brought to the U.S. as children a way to obtain drivers licenses.

Democratic State Representative Janet Cruz said the passage of federal legislation would undo some of the sting.

“I’m begging the federal government to act. We don’t need a patchwork quilt of oppressive laws from state to state. You see it in Arizona; you see it now in Florida. We need some federal legislation that everyone can follow.”

A provision in the federal legislation being pushed by the so-called Gang of Eight, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio would speed up the path to citizenship for Dreamers. Those are individuals who are attending school in the U.S. or serving in the military who have came to the U.S. before they turned 16 and have been here for at least 5 years. But for many undocumented immigrants the process can take up to 13 years. And all people seeking citizenship who are undocumented would have to pay taxes and fines. State Representative Cruz said even though the bill isn’t perfect, it’s better than nothing.

“At least there’s a path to citizenship. It takes a long time. It takes for some of these working families, it takes money that they’ll have to save for a year to be able to pay what they’re required to pay, but at least it’s a path. It’s a ten year path, but at least it’s something; at least they’re not living in the shadows.”

Governor Rick Scott’s veto of a state immigration bill is another bump in the road for Carlos Segovia. He’s a 20-year-old undocumented immigrant who was brought here from Mexico by his parents when he was just one year old.

“I’m here. It’s not my fault. Don’t hold me accountable for something my family did. If I was in Mexico City right now, I wouldn’t just come here illegally like my parents did. I would wait in line like everyone else does. So don’t hold me accountable for something that my parents did. I’m stuck here and it’s not my fault that I’m here. And I’m stuck here. I can’t leave. This is my house.”

Segovia said he now has to wait for new legislation to crop up in the state to help him. He’s hoping that the federal legislation is signed into law without losing any of its benefits to immigrants. Segovia said the 19 years he has spent in the U.S. have been a series of challenges and he’s looking forward to gaining some rights.

“My life ranges from having to have to live in one bedroom apartments with rats and cockroaches to having to go hide in the onion fields in [Georgia] because La Migra was coming and migration was rounding up people, separating families.”

Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes also spoke out about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. She said many children of undocumented workers graduate from Hillsborough County schools.

“When you look at them, you do not see kids that are undocumented, alien, whatever you want to call them. We see smiling, young, bright faces making a difference with their smarts in our nation, in our state and in our county.”

The issue is now open for debate on the full Senate floor. Supporters hope a final vote will come by the end of the summer. If passed in the Senate, the measure could face an uphill battle in the Republican controlled House.

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