January 07, 2016

Miami Republicans in Congress again ask White House for Cuban refugees plan

@PatriciaMazzei

Three Miami Republican members of Congress sent their third letter Thursday to President Barack Obama urging the White House to draft a plan to accommodate the influx of Cuban refugees to South Florida.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all Cuban Americans, blame Obama's rapprochement with Cuba for the increase in migrants from the island arriving in the U.S. -- and want him to help local governments absorb the new arrivals.

The House members have written to Obama twice before. Some 8,000 Cubans stranded in Costa Rica are now enroute to the U.S.-Mexico border. Federal policy stipulates that Cubans who reach American soil can remain in the country. After 366 days, they can apply for U.S. residency.

"Since our previous letters, we have been in contact with Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, and Doral Mayor Luigi Boria about their concerns regarding the growing strain on local governments and services in South Florida," the trio wrote Thursday. "Through its Homeless program, the City of Miami has been able to place Cuban migrants into shelters. However, these centers are now at full capacity and can no longer receive any of the 8,000 new refugees expected to arrive in the coming weeks. We have also been informed that Catholic Charities, Church World Services, and the International Rescue Committee do not have the funds necessary to assist these new refugees because they are already overwhelmed by the surge of Cuban nationals that have recently arrived in the United States."

Read the full letter: here.

Three things to know about the 'gun show loophole' following statement by Jeb Bush

Supporters of gun rights say President Barack Obama and others are confusing the issue of gun selling by talking about a "gun show loophole." Some go so far as to say such a loophole doesn’t exist.

When Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday asked Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush to explain what was wrong with Obama’s ideas, Bush had this to say:

"Well, because you don't know the details of it, but the so-called gun show loophole -- which I think is what he’s talking about -- doesn't exist. People that want to occasionally sell guns ought to have the right to do so without being impaired by the federal government. If states want to create specific rules around that kind of behavior -- fine."

We found Bush’s specific comments on Fox News Sunday a little jumbled and hard to fact-check, though he mimics similar claims by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other pundits. So here we’ll lay out what you need to know about current gun laws and what people mean when they talk about a loophole.

Our findings show that there is, in fact, an exemption in the law. But the exemption pertains to who sells the guns rather than where they sell them.

Keep reading PolitiFact's article.

Obama's mixed record on cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants

Years before efforts to overhaul immigration laws stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama made promises of his own to address illegal immigration.

During his 2008 campaign, Obama promised to "remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

We rated Obama's promise a Compromise in July 2009 after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said companies seeking government contracts would have to use a government database called E-Verify to ensure that their employees are legal. At the same time, she announced that the administration was getting rid of a Bush administration effort to force all types of companies to fire undocumented workers.

Now that Obama is nearing the end of his term, we're taking another look at the progress of Obama's promise. We found that Obama's progress on this promise has been mixed at best.

See how PolitiFact rated Obama's progress on our Obameter.

January 05, 2016

Florida official predicts surge in concealed weapons permits because of Obama executive action

@JeremySWallace

A key Florida official is blasting President Barack Obama for his latest executive action on guns, saying it is only going to result in a dramatic increase in the number of Floridians who will want a concealed weapons permit.

“Due to this overreaching executive action, we anticipate a surge in the number of applications for concealed weapon licenses in Florida, and we are preparing to meet this increased demand,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose office handles concealed weapons permits.

Florida has 1.4 million concealed weapons licenses currently.

“Our right to bear arms is enshrined in our U.S. Constitution, yet President Obama has again circumvented Congress with this executive action, infringing on law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” said Putnam, a Republican who served in Congress for 10 years before being elected the state’s Agriculture Commissioner in 2010.

At the centerpiece of Obama's plan is a more sweeping definition of gun dealers that the administration hopes will expand the number of sales subject to background checks. Under current law, only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers. But at gun shows, websites and flea markets, sellers often skirt that requirement by declining to register as licensed dealers.

Aiming to narrow that loophole, the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is issuing updated guidance that says the government should deem anyone "in the business" of selling guns to be a dealer, regardless of where he or she sells the guns. To that end, the government will consider other factors, including how many guns a person sells, how frequently, and whether those guns are sold for a profit.

December 31, 2015

Is Gitmo a key part of ISIS recruitment propaganda?

Supporters of closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, including President Barack Obama, often refer to the military prison’s existence as a major recruitment tool for terrorist groups.

The theory is that terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) can rally potential followers by highlighting alleged human rights abuses against suspected terrorists held at the prison.

But Weekly Standard senior editor Stephen Hayes said this is flat-out wrong.

Guantanamo has "never been a key component of ISIS or al-Qaida propaganda, and yet the president is insisting on moving forward and closing it," Hayes said on Fox News Sunday Dec. 27.

We decided to get to the bottom of this question. See what Lauren Carroll of PunditFact found.

December 28, 2015

Jeb Bush dishes about Donald Trump and Barack Obama at West Palm Beach Forum Club event

Jeb Bush laid out familiar criticisms of Donald Trump and President Barack Obama in a speech in West Palm Beach Monday.

Bush spoke to about 900 people at the Forum Club, an event that draws a business and government crowd. It followed an event Bush held at Chico’s restaurant in Hialeah earlier in the day.

Bush criticized Obama’s handling of the war on terror.

“Our president can’t even call it what it is,” Bush said, a veiled reference to Obama avoiding the term “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Bush said that Obama “brags about containment and then within hours the Paris attacks take place and then the San Bernardino attacks takes place.”

When Obama made a comment about “containment” of ISIS in November, he was referring to ISIS’s territorial expansion in Iraq and Syria, PolitiFact found. Obama did not rule out the potential for a terrorist attack.

Bush repeated familiar lines about his tenure as governor including his nickname of “Veto Corleone” and about cutting state jobs while overall jobs in the state grew (during a booming economy).

In response to a question on immigration, Bush snuck in an attack on some of his GOP rivals when he said “I haven’t changed my views. Candidates seem to go into the witness protection about this issue.”

That could have been a veiled attack on his rival, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who backed comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 and now calls for a piecemeal approach. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has also changed part of his message on immigration -- for example he no longer supports expanding H1-B visas.

Bush made several jabs at Trump including that Vladimir Putin had praised the GOP frontrunner and Bush also knocked Trump for referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.

Although most of the event focused on serious topics such as terrorism, guns and ISIS Bush managed to sprinkle in a tad of humor -- particularly about Trump.

At the end of the event, the moderator asked Bush what he would say to Trump if he walked into the room.

“Donald I will take you on one on one in a debate. Anytime, any place.”

December 17, 2015

Obama: 'Important steps' taken in past year between U.S., Cuba

From the White House:

One year ago, I announced that after more than 50 years, America would change its relationship with Cuba and put the interests of the people of both countries before the outdated ways of the past. Since then, we have taken important steps forward to normalize relations between our countries—re-establishing diplomatic relations and opening embassies; facilitating greater travel and commerce; connecting more Americans and Cubans; and promoting the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba. We are advancing our shared interests and working together on complex issues that for too long defined—and divided—us. Meanwhile, the United States is in a stronger position to engage the people and governments of our hemisphere.Congress can support a better life for the Cuban people by lifting an embargo that is a legacy of a failed policy.

Today, the Stars and Stripes again fly over our Embassy in Havana. Today, more Americans are visiting Cuba and engaging the Cuban people than at any time in the last 50 years. We continue to have differences with the Cuban government, but we raise those issues directly, and we will always stand for human rights and the universal values that we support around the globe. Change does not happen overnight, and normalization will be a long journey. The last 12 months, however, are a reminder of the progress we can make when we set the course toward a better future. Over the next year, we will continue on this path, empowering Cubans and Americans to lead the way.

Miami Republicans slam U.S.-Cuba policy, a year after change

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami's Cuban-American Republicans in Congress used Thursday's one-year anniversary of renewed U.S.-Cuba relations to bash President Obama's policies.

In a statement, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the change a "sham." In an op-ed published on Medium, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart noted that "Cubans are departing Cuba in record numbers." And in a news release styled as an email tipsheet, presidential candidate and Sen. Marco Rubio decried a Cuban "chokehold on freedom."

Here's Rubio's statement:

The first year of President Obama's Cuba policy has been like the rest of his foreign policy: a disaster that prioritizes legacy-shaping headlines over freedom and results, treats our enemies far better than our allies, and negotiates deals from a position of weakness -– as if we are ashamed of our moral obligations as the world’s most powerful nation. Because of President Obama's Cuba policy, the U.S. has never been closer to the tyrants that rule the island or more alienated from the Cuban people working tirelessly to build a free and democratic future. Because of President Obama's weakness in negotiating with the Castro regime, cop killers, terrorists and other fugitives from U.S. justice continue to enjoy greater freedoms in Cuba than average Cubans who are experiencing a historically relentless wave of repression and political arrests this year.

American businesses have placed a risky bet to enrich themselves and, in the process, enrich the Cuban military that actually controls the economy. The next U.S. president should end the many concessions this one has made to the regime, and send a clear message that betting against the Cuban people's free and democratic future is a losing bet. With a year to go, President Obama can still inflict a lot of damage that further sets back the cause of a free and democratic Cuba, but those who care about freedom and the fate of the Cuban people will continue to fight him at every turn.

Here's Ros-Lehtinen's statement:

Continue reading "Miami Republicans slam U.S.-Cuba policy, a year after change" »

A year of change in U.S.-Cuba relations

via @HeraldMimi

In the year since the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement began, some things have seemed to move at warp speed, but others have smacked into the reality that the two former Cold War enemies still have two very different systems and have barely talked to each other in five decades.

There have been important symbolic changes. An American flag now waves over a U.S. Embassy in Havana, and a Cuban flag flies at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., after an absence of more than 54 years. President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro have met face-to-face twice and talked by telephone three times, even joking about the famously long speeches of Fidel Castro.

Cuba has been removed from the U.S. black list of state sponsors of terrorism, and there have been talks on prickly issues such as migration, human rights, and claims for confiscated property of U.S. citizens and corporations.

But because expectations were so high and many U.S. businesses were so eager to engage after a half-century drought, some say Cuba has been slow in taking up the United States on the new business opportunities the Obama administration began outlining in January. Obama also has said he wants to work with Congress to lift the embargo.

Expectations were high among the Cuban people, too, said Domingo Amuchástegui, a former Cuban intelligence officer who left the island in 1994, because “in Cuba’s political culture, when the president says something is going to be done, take his word, it will be done. Cubans who heard Obama thought this is the president’s word.”

More here.

View an interactive timeline here.

December 14, 2015

Yahoo Politics: Obama hopes to visit Cuba, if he can meet with dissidents

From Yahoo Politics:

President Obama promised in an exclusive interview with Yahoo News that he “very much” hopes to visit Cuba during his last year in office, but only if he can meet with pro-democracy dissidents there.

“If I go on a visit, then part of the deal is that I get to talk to everybody,” Obama said. “I’ve made very clear in my conversations directly with President [Raul] Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.”

Speaking in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Obama strongly hinted that he would make a decision “over the next several months.”

The president said he hopes that “sometime next year” he and his top aides will see enough progress in Cuba that they can say that “now would be a good time to shine a light on progress that’s been made, but also maybe (go) there to nudge the Cuban government in a new direction.”

White House aides privately describe an Obama visit – under the right circumstances – as the logical culmination of the new policy direction that he announced almost exactly one year ago.

More here.