November 09, 2017

More than a dozen Republicans demand a legislative solution for Dreamers

105Daca06 NEW PPP

@alextdaugherty

In a show of force to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican leadership, more than a dozen Republicans from around the country are demanding a legislative solution by the end of 2017 for 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

There is less than four months left for Congress to find a solution for the young immigrants known as Dreamers before President Donald Trump will cancel an Obama-era executive order known as DACA that allowed Dreamers to be protected from deportation.

The 13 Republicans who gathered on Thursday want to vote on a bill now.

“The reality is that these young people with DACA status are already being harmed today,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., noting that over 22,000 DACA recipients missed an October deadline to renew their status and could be fired from their jobs immediately. “Everyday that Congress fails to act, every time that Congress kicks this can down the road, people, real people, are hurt.”

The group, which included conservative Texas Rep. Joe Barton along with moderate Miami Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, wasn’t the typical cast of characters at an immigration news conference on Capitol Hill.

While Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo are well-versed on immigration issues and delivered their talking points in English and Spanish, other members at the news conference on Capitol Hill tripped up when reciting details about DACA recipients. Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello referred to DACA recipients as “those who were born here” before being corrected by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The pro-Dreamer Republicans also included those who are trying to hold on to their seats in the face of well-funded Democratic challengers ahead of the 2018 elections. Issa ranks as the most vulnerable House incumbent in a recent analysis by Roll Call, while New York Rep. John Faso, who also spoke at the press conference, ranks third on Roll Call’s list.

But the Miami Republicans will need every possible Republican on board, even if their support is driven by political calculations, to convince Ryan to put a bill on the floor. Certain conservative Republican members are poised to vote against any proposal that expands immigration protections, but multiple Republicans at the press conference said that a legislative solution for Dreamers would easily garner over 300 votes in the 435 member House of Representatives.


Read more here.

November 08, 2017

Curbelo says ATF regulations on bump stocks are a "waste of time"

Curbelo (1)

via @kateirby 

Two days into the grief after yet another mass shooting in the United States, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, talked Tuesday about some areas of legislative consensus between Democrats and Republicans on gun issues.

Not on his list: banning or restricting bump stocks, the devices that Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock attached to the firearms he used to kill 58 people on Oct. 1, turning them into virtual machine guns. Cornyn punted on the issue, as many Congressional Republicans have been doing since shortly after the tragedy, the biggest mass shooting in American history.

Immediately following the Vegas shooting, Republicans and Democrats alike seemed open to a possible ban on bump stocks. Even the National Rifle Association said in a statement that bump stocks “should be subject to additional regulations.” Bills were introduced with support from lawmakers in both parties.

The NRA, however, soon made it clear it only supported additional regulations from ATF, not new legislation in Congress; Republican leaders such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., soon circulated the same message, and the matter was kicked to the agency.

In a letter sent to Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, dated Oct. 12, a group of current and former ATF employees explained why the agency was holding back. Curbelo is sponsoring a bill to ban bump stocks; the NRA has come out against it.

Bump stocks essentially convert legal semi-automatic weapons, which require a pull of the trigger to fire each bullet, into guns more like illegal automatic weapons, which fire a spray of bullets when the trigger is held down.

But “The bump slide, and several other similar after-market accessories that increase the rate at which a shooter can pull the trigger, are engineered to avoid regulation under Federal law,” the letter to Curbelo said. “These accessories DO NOT cause the firearm to shoot more than one shot by the single function of a trigger pull. The notion that ATF chose not to regulate an item it had the authority to regulate is false. The law is very clear and it does not currently allow ATF to regulate such accessories.”

Adding to the confusion, Cherie Duvall-Jones, spokeswoman for the ATF, would not specify, in response to questions from McClatchy, whether the ATF believes bump stocks fall under a ban on machine guns, the classification of which, under the law, can include accessories or parts intended to convert a weapon into a machine gun. She also said the current process does not require the firearms industry to submit items for classification before putting them on the market.

Curbelo has questioned why certain Republicans were still trying to pass the issue off to ATF.

“Obviously, among Republicans and especially leadership, the idea of giving ATF the opportunity to issue new regulations has gained a lot of momentum. I think that is a waste of time because ATF has expressed in the past at least twice that they have no authority under existing law to regulate,” Curbelo told McClatchy recently. “So I’m confident that once they go through this exercise and it yields nothing, our legislation will again feature prominently as THE solution to this situation.”

Read more here.

Ros-Lehtinen: Fellow Republicans don’t care about finding a permanent TPS solution

Cereijo_HaitianCompasFestival_18

@alextdaugherty

Over 200,000 Haitians and Salvadorans could be forced to leave the United States if the Trump administration ends Temporary Protected Status for the two countries, and Democrats along with Miami Republicans in Congress are pushing for a permanent solution.

But Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen isn’t convinced that most of her fellow Republicans care.

The outgoing Miami congresswoman said Tuesday that the majority of Congress “would not know what TPS is” if asked about it and that there isn’t an appetite from Republicans to give TPS recipients a path to permanent residency.

“I spoke yesterday about TPS, had hardly anyone ask me about it. I spoke again today about TPS, radio silence from my colleagues,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “There’s just no interest for immigration reform generally, and I don’t think there’s much appetite to help these two particular groups of people. It hurts to say it but it’s the political reality.”

Ros-Lehtinen and the entire Miami delegation in Congress — Democrats and Republicans — are united behind a bill by Rep. Carlos Curbelo that would allow Haitians, Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans who receive TPS to obtain a path to permanent residency.

The Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday that TPS will expire in 2019 for Nicaraguans, while Hondurans will get a six-month extension until July 2018. The Trump administration has not yet announced a determination for Haitians and Salvadorans.

“While I’m disappointed in the administration’s announcement, these continued short-term extensions have created anxiety and uncertainty not only for these immigrants and their families, but also for their employers and neighbors whose prosperity also depends on them,” Curbelo said in a statement. “Congress has an opportunity to change that, and I’m grateful the Administration has called for a permanent solution from Congress.”

But finding a permanent solution will be a political challenge for House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Miami Republicans. Conservative Republicans have railed against any attempt to expand immigration, and the March 2018 deadline for Congress to find a legislative solution for young people known as Dreamers, who came to the country with their parents illegally as children, looms ahead of Nicaragua’s January 2019 TPS elimination or Honduras’ possible elimination in July 2018.

Read more here.

November 06, 2017

Trump administration to end TPS for Nicaraguans. No decision on Haitians, Salvadorans

For TPS

@francoordonez @jacquiecharles @brendamedinar @alextdaugherty 

The Trump administration will end a temporary program that allows some Nicaraguans to live and work in the United States, while leaving the door open to canceling the same program for more than 200,000 Haitians and Salvadorans in the coming weeks.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday night that about 2,000 Nicaraguans who have Temporary Protected Status must leave or seek another form of legal residency, though those affected will be able to stay until January 5, 2019.

The status had been granted to some Nicaraguans who had fled their homeland after the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

“Based on all available information, the country conditions in Nicaragua now exceed Hurricane Mitch,” said a senior administration official.

The 1998 hurricane killed more than 2,000 people in Nicaragua and caused over $1 billion in damage.

But the bigger impact will come when the administration makes a final decision on Salvadorans and Haitians’ status. Haitians status is set to expire in January 2018, affecting about 50,000 people, most of them in Florida, while Sanvadorans’ status expires in March 2018, affecting nearly 200,000 people.

Homeland Security officials also announced that Honduras will get a six-month TPS extension, until July 2018, after the program was set to expire in January. Just under 60,000 Hondurans have received TPS.

Local advocate Francisco Portillo, president of the Honduran group Francisco Morazán, said immigration organizations will keep fighting to win legalization for Honduran TPS holders.

“We are sad by the news but feel fortunate that we got six months to keep lobbying in Washington,” Portillo said. “Let’s see if we can get Congress to legalize these people who have been in the country for decades, are homeowners and business owners and whose kids were born here.”

A bill proposed last week by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and co-sponsored by other members of South Florida’s congressional delegation would grant TPS recipients from Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador and Nicaragua a path to permanent residency. Only Congress can provide a permanent solution for individuals enrolled in TPS.

Read more here.

November 03, 2017

Curbelo is ready for a tax fight

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty 

Carlos Curbelo, Miami's lone representative on the House tax writing committee, is ready to debate a bill that would revamp the nation's tax code for the first time since the 1980s as special interest groups like the real estate industry voice opposition to the proposal.

"I'm not worried about them, I expected this," Curbelo, a Republican, said. "Every special interest group out there thinks the code is for them and the truth is the tax code, the tax system, is for the American people. What we're trying to do is simplify it, eliminate a lot of the special benefits to benefit more people across the board." 

A markup of the bill, dubbed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is scheduled for Monday. 

"Most people are pretty pleased with the bill," Curbelo said, adding that there could be a Republican amendment during Monday's markup. "There are many opportunities to improve the bill, but most people are generally very satisfied with the bill."
 
Originally, Curbelo was in favor of a revenue-neutral tax plan that would not increase the federal deficit, though a revenue-neutral plan was not likely after House Speaker Paul Ryan and tax committee chairman Kevin Brady pulled a proposed border adjustment tax when idea faced opposition from trade groups and the White House.
 
"I always wanted to have revenue-neutral tax reform, in that sense I wish we could have done better, but politics is the art of the possible and this is where we are and we have to make the best of it," Curbelo said. 
 
Curbelo was also supportive of increasing the child tax credit to $1,600 from the current $1,000, though some Senate Republicans like Marco Rubio have suggested a $1,600 credit isn't enough to help working families. 
 
"That family credit is defacto permanent, you can take that to the bank," Curbelo said. "I know members on both sides will be supportive of continuing that." 
 
Democrats are expected to oppose the tax overhaul effort, though Republicans can pass the bill in the House and Senate with a simple majority due to budget rules that were enacted last week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford two Republican defections in the Senate or else the tax plan will fail much like an effort to repeal Obamacare did earlier this year. 
 
Curbelo's 2018 opponent, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, criticized his support for the tax plan in a statement. 
 
“We can all agree the tax code should be simpler but Curbelo’s tax plan is a giveaway to big corporations and the richest among us at the expense of Florida families," Mucarsel-Powell said. 

November 02, 2017

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen can apply for Hispanic Caucus membership (Updated)

Curbelo (1)

@alextdaugherty 

Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will receive a letter to officially apply for Congressional Hispanic Caucus membership, and then the body, currently made up of all Democrats, will vote on their application. 

Ros-Lehtinen has no intention of joining the caucus despite the invitation to apply, a spokesman for the congresswoman said.

The CHC executive council discussed Curbelo's potential candidacy during a closed-door meeting on Thursday, according to three members in the room. Curbelo has been trying to join the caucus since February, but the body has yet to make a decision. 

"The congressman’s intention has always been to join the Hispanic Caucus," said Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez

At issue is Curbelo's immigration stance. Some members of the caucus are concerned that inviting Curbelo would be antithetical to the group's position on immigration since Curbelo has not co-sponsored a version of the Dream Act, which would give the children of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

The Dream Act has Republican co-sponsorship, including from Ros-Lehtinen, who urged a vote on the measure during a speech on Thursday. 

"Let's bring the Dream Act to a vote so that these young people can make their American dream a reality," Ros-Lehtinen said on the House floor. "The clock is ticking." 

But Curbelo has his own proposal, the Raising America's Children Act, that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers but is more narrowly tailored than the Dream Act. Curbelo has pitched his solution as a conservative alternative to the Dream Act. 

"Even when I got into the caucus 14 years ago there was a vote by the other members and we'll take that vote," said Arizona Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva. "Once we're done that, he can possibly stop complaining that he hasn't been given an audience and start complaining about the result." 

Grijalva does not plan to vote for Curbelo even if he signs onto the Dream Act. 

"He's politicized it more than it should be," Grijalva said of Curbelo's desire to join the group. "He's the one running around whining about the fact that he's not being allowed in because he's a Republican. It has nothing to do with that. It's a political strategy to try to make himself in a competitive district look like he's a victim. He's not a victim." 

"We are absolutely, in writing, making it very clear that we recognize that Curbelo and Ileana informally have asked that they be part of the caucus, now they're going to be invited to formally say they want to be a member of the caucus," said CHC chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. "Every member of our caucus gets a vote." 

Lujan Grisham said the letter will be sent to Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen tomorrow and that a vote could take place next week if the Miami lawmakers reply promptly. Lujan Grisham has not made up her mind on whether she will vote for Curbelo, though she said "it may persuade some members" to vote for him if he signs onto the Dream Act. 

As for Ros-Lehtinen's candidacy, Grijalva said "she's been pretty consistent on our issues" but that the letter to her was more of a "gesture on her part." Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring in 2018, was once part of the CHC but left along with other Republican members in 2003 over differences on Cuba policy. 

The caucus at one time included members from both parties, but several Florida Republicans walked out years ago and formed their own group, the Congressional Hispanic Conference. That group is chaired by Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who has said he’s not interested in joining the other caucus.

UPDATED 3:49pm

Ros-Lehtinen says she has no intention of joining the CHC. 

“I had informal conversations with Michelle and Lucille (Roybal-Allard) over this issue and I told them that I am saving money in my remaining time in Congress to pay for some Congressional costs I have outstanding and I don’t want to use those funds to pay dues to the Caucus," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Carlos is an outstanding legislator who merits being made a part of the Caucus and I hope that he is accepted by the Caucus."

Lesley Clark contributed 

Curbelo's Hispanic Caucus invite stalls over Dreamers

via @lesleyclark

WASHINGTON -- Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's bid to join the all-Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus is hitting a hurdle, stemming in part from the Miami Republican's decision not to co-sponsor an immigration bill with support from both sides of the aisle.

The caucus could discuss Curbelo's bid at its weekly meeting Thursday, a week after some members privately raised questions about his inclusion.

Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., had predicted last week that members would easily extend an invite to Curbelo. But Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. said Wednesday that members wanted more time to deliberate and seek further clarification about how it would work to have a Republican join the all-Democratic group.

“I don’t think the caucus should be anybody’s foil,” Grijalva said.

Curbelo is a top target for national Democrats eager to win his Democratic-leaning district in south Florida in 2018, but has insisted his bid to join the caucus is not politically motivated. He said he waited until after last year’s election to make the request. 

Curbelo had asked to join the group that takes up issues of concern to the Hispanic community in February, but has claimed that Democrats are deliberately stalling his induction.

Lujan Grisham said she’s been positive about Curbelo’s potential membership, but acknowledged that “in this climate” some caucus members have reservations.

“There is no effort to delay taking an action. There’s more of a thoughtful process to figure out what’s the best way forward,” she said.

More here.

October 31, 2017

South Florida lawmakers propose a path to legal status for Haitian TPS recipients

Cereijo_HaitianCompasFestival_18

@alextdaugherty 

A bipartisan group of South Florida lawmakers introduced a bill on Tuesday that provides a path to permanent residency for thousands of foreign citizens who participate in a temporary program that allows them to work and live in the United States.

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo introduced the Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees with Established Residency Act, which provides a pathway to permanent legal status for certain Haitians, Nicaraguans, El Salvadoreans and Hondurans who arrived in the United States before Jan. 13, 2011.

South Florida Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson and Alcee Hastings also signed on to the legislation, which applies to participants in the Temporary Protected Status program, along with Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“While hoping and waiting they would be able to return to their native countries for years, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Honduran and Haitian migrants have become essential parts of the South Florida community by contributing to our local economy and our culture,” Curbelo said in a statement. “While I will continue to support extensions for Temporary Protected Status, this bipartisan legislation would give these migrants the peace of mind to continue giving back to their communities, contributing to our economy and supporting their families.”

Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras are the three countries with the most participants in the program, which is administered by the Department of Homeland Security. About 300,000 people from those three countries participate in TPS, and the bulk of Haiti’s 50,000 TPS recipients live in South Florida.

“I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to provide a permanent solution for families living in the United States with temporary protected status,” Wilson said in a statement. “It is in the meantime imperative that we not forget the economic, cultural and other contributions that people living and working in the United States thanks to this measure are making to both to our nation and their native countries.”

The Trump administration faces multiple looming deadlines for extending the Temporary Protected Status program in Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. Haiti’s status is set to expire in January 2018 after then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly extended TPS for six months instead of the usual 18 in May.

Kelly also said Haitians “need to start thinking about returning.”

Extending TPS for Haitians is a source of bipartisan agreement among Florida lawmakers, including Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. But the Trump administration terminated Sudan’s TPS status in September, an indication that they could decide to end other countries’ TPS status.

Currently, citizens from nine countries are eligible for TPS. The bill to provide a path to permanent residency does not apply to TPS recipients from Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria or Yemen.

Read more here.

October 26, 2017

GOP’s Curbelo expected to join caucus that’s been Democrats-only

Curbelo (1)

via @lesleyclark

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's effort to join a Democratic-only congressional caucus is about to pay off with an invite.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus meets Thursday and Curbelo is expected to be accepted, the caucus chairwoman told McClatchy on Wednesday. Letters will go out to all Republican members of Congress who are Hispanic and caucus votes will follow, but Curbelo is almost certainly to be welcomed aboard, said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. Other GOP members could also join.

“He got us to a good place,” Grisham said of the Cuban-American Curbelo’s push to join the caucus, which began with his appointment to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, a non-profit affiliated organization.

The caucus that the Miami-area congressman is now likely to join is a forum for issues of concern to the Latino community. It now consists of 31 Democrats.

The caucus at one time included members from both parties, but several Florida Republicans walked out years ago over differences on Cuba policy and formed their own group, the Congressional Hispanic Conference. That group is chaired by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who said he’s not interested in joining the caucus.

He said the two groups have a “cordial” relationship and work together, but ”it’s pretty clear that there’s a partisan divide.”

Curbelo, who is up for re-election in 2018 in a Democratic-leaning district in Miami, had asked to join the Democrats-only Congressional Hispanic Caucus eight months ago, but said he was left wondering what happened to his application.

“I feel like when people gather in St. Peter’s Square awaiting the smoke to emerge from the Sistine Chapel,” Curbelo said, joking as he likened his acceptance to the group to the top-secret selection of a new pope.

He said he was grateful his request was being taken seriously, but added, “It should be an easy decision. My goal and my intention is to work constructively with all of those members on a lot of the issues that unite us.”

Read more here.

October 16, 2017

Republicans trail Democrats in the money race for Ros-Lehtinen's seat

Ileana 2

@alextdaugherty

Over a dozen hopefuls have filed paperwork to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a Miami-based district that national Democrats hope to flip in 2018. 

But six months after Ros-Lehtinen retired, the declared Democrats are soundly beating the Republicans in the money race. 

Five Democrats have raised well over six figures in the latest fundraising quarter and a sixth has hauled in over $200,000 since the spring.

But zero Republicans have raised anything close to $100,000 in the latest quarter spanning July 1 to September 30.

Three Republicans have posted fundraising results that were publicly available on the Federal Election Commission's website on Sunday. Miami-Dade County commissioner Bruno Barreiro hauled in $41,950, former school board member and Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado raised $15,050 and former Doral council member Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, who said that aliens took her on a spaceship, raised $4,990. 

Regalado said in a statement posted to her Facebook page that she suspended her campaign just before Hurricane Irma hit South Florida. Irma made landfall on September 10, about six weeks after Regalado officially announced her bid. 

"I made this decision knowing full well that all of the other candidates in this 2018 race would continue raising funds despite the challenges that we, our neighbors and fellow Floridians faced," Regalado said. "Rather than call and email my supporters for funds I decided to ask them to set this race aside and help our community recover." Regalado told the Miami Herald that she is fundraising this quarter.  

"The issue is that I officially became a candidate a week before the hurricane hit and during the hurricane all i did was help people," Rodriguez Aguilera said. "I didn’t think that was the moment to really fundraise." Rodriguez Aguilera announced her candidacy about 10 days before Irma made landfall. 

Barreiro, the only Republican who fundraised in the previous quarter, has just over $187,000 on hand for his campaign as of October 15. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

A host of other Democrats and Republicans in South Florida suspended fundraising efforts due to Hurricane Irma, including Democrats running for Ros-Lehtinen's seat.

Seven Democrats are vying for the party’s nomination to the rare open seat: former state Judge Mary Barzee Flores, state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez of Miami, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn, Miami city commissioner Ken Russell and former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman. All of them except Hepburn have raised over $100,000. 

In contrast to the race for Ros-Lehtinen's seat, sitting Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who also represents a Democratic-leaning district in South Florida, raised $431,580 during the latest quarter. Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who represents a more conservative district without a big-name Democratic challenger, raised $199,766 in the latest quarter.