July 24, 2015

Carlos Curbelo tries to rally support against change in U.S. citizenship oath


Up until now, new U.S. citizens have had to take an oath at their naturalization ceremonies pledging to bear arms or perform noncombatant military service when required by law. 

This week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a modification to the "Oath of Allegiance" allowing new citizens to opt out of the two clauses (one for bearing arms and the other for noncombatant military service) based on religion or conscientious objection.

That modification did not sit well with U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who has emailed other members of Congress asking them to sign on to a letter opposing the new policy, which the Miami Republican called "misguided." Two other Republicans, Diane Black of Tennessee and David Valadao California, have already signed on. Curbelo's parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba.

"As Members of Congress, it is our belief that the current Oath of Allegiance respects those new citizens’ religious beliefs by including the option to perform 'noncombatant services in the Armed Services,'" says the letter, addressed to Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez.

"Allowing for individuals to be exempt from reciting these guidelines of the Oath based off moral objections is cause for grave concern and could set a bad precedent. Defending our country when needed should remain a duty for all citizens. Making it option would diminish the allegiance that all citizens should have for our nation."

Read the text of the letter below:

Continue reading "Carlos Curbelo tries to rally support against change in U.S. citizenship oath" »

July 23, 2015

Miami Beach woman's push to replace Confederate general statue with environmentalist gains traction

via @DriscollAmy

The push by a Miami Beach woman to replace Florida’s statue of a Confederate general with one of Marjory Stoneman Douglas won support last week from the Miami-Dade Commission for Women.

The commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to help Lynette Long ask Florida legislators to sponsor a bill to replace the statue of Edmund Kirby Smith, who surrendered the last military force of the Confederacy, with one of the champion of the Everglades. Smith’s bronze figure has stood in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection since 1922, where each state is allowed two representatives.

Florida’s other place of honor belongs to John Gorrie, the inventor of air conditioning.

Long has worked for years to see women’s contributions better represented in the nation’s symbols. Her push to replace the statue comes as the U.S. has announced it will feature a woman’s face on the $10 bill and after South Carolina took down the Confederate flag from the state Capitol in the wake of the race-related slaughter of nine people in Charleston.

Last month, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, called on Florida to replace Smith’s statue, calling it troubling “that one of Florida’s statues is an obscure Confederate war general."


Miami Republican votes with 4 others in GOP against crackdown on 'sanctuary' cities


Only five Republicans in the U.S. House voted Thursday against a law cracking down on so-called "sanctuary" cities that restrict cooperation with federal authorities over immigration enforcement.

One of them, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, is from Miami-Dade County, which is not a self-styled "sanctuary" but does limit local police assistance to the feds. The law passed by the House was drafted in reaction to the murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by a man who had been deported five times to Mexico.

"Sanctuary cities are one of the many symptoms of our deeply flawed immigration system," Curbelo said in a statement. "However, had this bill been the law of the land prior to the death of Ms. Steinle, it would not have prevented this heinous crime. Sanctuary cities are dangerous because they inadvertently promote lawlessness, but H.R. 3009 will not stop this unfortunate practice.

"This bill does nothing to secure our border, reform our visa system, or account for unauthorized immigrants living in our country, and is unlikely to ever become law. Instead it wrongly punishes law enforcement officials in many states. It's time to stop playing politics with immigration and advance serious solutions that will prevent future victims, finally giving America an immigration system worthy of the world's greatest nation."

Another Miami Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, told Politico after the vote that he favored the bill because he believes in "zero tolerance to serious criminals."

President Obama has said he would veto the bill, which would strip "sanctuary" cities from federal funds.

C-SPAN viewer takes on Carlos Curbelo over Donald Trump


U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo made an appearance Thursday on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, a program that takes live calls from viewers. One of the callers gave Curbelo a grilling over the Miami Republican's criticism of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

William of Georgia was introduced as an independent, but he called himself a "constitutional conservative."

"I'm going to try to remain calm as best I can here," William began. "The congressman is the kind of Republican that drives us away from the Republican Party."

"Donald Trump has touched a nerve," he continued, defending Trump's take on illegal immigration and arguing that the real-estate mogul didn't refer to all Mexican immigrants as rapists.

"I will not vote for Jeb Bush if he's the nominee," William concluded, adding a touch of sarcasm. "You keep it up."

Responded Curbelo, a Bush supporter: "Anyone who is seriously considering Donald Trump for president really has to reevaluate what their vision is for the future of our country."

"Mr. Trump is a candidate who's not advancing any solutions," he added. "He's trying to inspire fear and anger in people, as we just heard from the caller."

Later, Curbelo answered another pro-Trump caller by saying Trump is "going to get exposed in the upcoming debates." A Democrat chided Curbelo and the entire GOP for failing to tamp down Trump's political pull four years ago when he questioned President Obama's country of birth.

"We do a disservice to our country by talking about Donald Trump all day," Curbelo lamented. "And we reward him, because this is what he wants."

Congressional Black Caucus keeping eye on Florida redistricting


African American members of Congress are making it clear that they will be watching Florida’s redistricting efforts to assure black communities do not lose their voice in Washington.

“The Congressional Black Caucus supports a redistricting plan that enables African American communities to have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” said U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, chairman of the caucus. “We encourage the Florida legislature to draft a redistricting plan that does not retrogress and maintains the current ability of African American Floridians to elect members of Congress.”

Florida has three members in that caucus, including U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, whose 5th Congressional District was among those the Florida Supreme Court ruled earlier this month had been to be redrawn because they were “tainted with unconstitutional intent” to favor Republicans and incumbents.

Brown’s district is expected to face some of the most severe redrawing based on the Supreme Court’s ruling. Her district currently stretches from Jacksonville to the Orlando area.

Brown has blasted the court’s decision as being “seriously flawed” and failing to recognize that the 5th District “maintains communities of interest.”

The Florida Legislature is set to begin a special session on Aug 10 to redraw Brown's district, as well as six other districts, including two in Miami, one in Boca Raton and another in West Palm Beach.

July 22, 2015

Miami Beach woman wants Marjory Stoneman Douglas to replace Florida's Confederate general statue at U.S. Capitol

via @DriscollAmy

In the national collection of statues on display in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol, each state is allotted two spots to showcase its most worthy representatives. Some states have chosen towering figures in history — Samuel Adams, father of the American revolution, represents Massachusetts — while others have gone with folksy types like humorist Will Rogers, representing Oklahoma.

And then there’s Florida. For its two picks, the Sunshine State chose John Gorrie, inventor of refrigeration and air conditioning, and Edmund Kirby Smith, a Confederate general who surrendered the last military force of the Confederacy in Galveston, Texas.

As part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, Gorrie, carved from cool-looking marble, has been on exhibit since 1914. Smith, in bronze, has been in the place of honor since 1922, representing Florida for thousands of visitors a day who tour the Capitol.

A Miami Beach woman wants to change that. Lynette Long is proposing swapping out Smith’s statue for one she finds a lot more fitting: Marjory Stoneman Douglas, champion of the Everglades. If the effort succeeds, it would make Douglas the 10th woman in the collection — out of 100 statues representing the 50 states. Her statue would replace a Confederate general’s likeness at a time when such symbols have come under increasing criticism.

More here.

July 20, 2015

Charlie Crist plans to run for Congress

via @learyreports

Charlie Crist is preparing to run for the U.S. House seat David Jolly is vacating to run for Senate.

Crist's action follows Republican Jolly announcing his Senate campaign this morning. It's all due to the likely redrawing of the 13th Congressional District due to the recent Florida Supreme Court decision ordering new lines in eight districts across the state.

The new district would likely be much more Democratic, forcing Jolly to leave. Crist, the former Republican turn Democrat, has a natural base in hometown Pinellas County and would bring big name ID and fundraising ability.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

'Sad' day for Miami GOP members of Congress over Cuban embassy opening

Mario21 cuba new hmg


The three amigos, as U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen calls herself and Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, watched Monday morning from Miami as the Cuban flag rose once again in Washington D.C.

In the afternoon, they gathered in Ros-Lehtinen's district office to declare it a "sad" day for Cuban Americans who have fought to keep the dictatorship isolated until the Castro regime becomes a democracy. The three Miami Republicans stood next to posters brandishing images of beaten up Cuban dissidents and the four men who died shot down by the Cuban government in the Brothers to the Rescue flights of 1996.

"There is not enough room in this office to display the faces of the opposition," Ros-Lehtinen said. 

Diaz-Balart said he won't consider a Cuban ambassador or other diplomats representatives of the people who live on the island.

"Cuba's true leaders, those are the ones that are in the prisons,"  Diaz-Balart said, or who've had their professional licenses or rationing cards taken away as a punishment for their political views. "The Castro regime is not the Cuban people. If only we had a president who knew the difference."

Continue reading "'Sad' day for Miami GOP members of Congress over Cuban embassy opening" »

July 17, 2015

Fifteen Florida congressmen ask Legislature to hold statewide redistricting hearings

A bipartisan group of 15 Florida congressmen on Thursday asked the state's legislative leaders to conduct statewide hearings before redrawing the congressional maps which were ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court last week.

"We hope you agree that those directly affected by the Supreme Court's recent ruling in The League of Women Voters v. Detzner, et al., should have their views and opinions heard and considered in this important matter,'' the group wrote. "The opportunity to be heard is particularly important for African American and Latino communities whose representation and voting power will be impacted by redistricting.

"Anything less would be a travesty since the goal is fair representation for all of Florida's citizens."

Democratic U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings, Alan Grayson, Frederica Wilson, Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz joined Republican U.S. Reps. Ted Yoho, Jeff Miller, John Mica, Mario Diaz Balart, Carlos Curbelo, Ander Crenshaw, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Daniel Webster in signing the letter.

The court ruled that the redistricting process was "tainted" by illegal partisan intent. It cited testimony and evidence at trial that, despite claims that the process was the most "transparent" on record, it allowed political operatives to orchestrate testimony at public hearings and file maps written by political consultants to benefit Republican incumbents. 

Here's the letter:  Download Congressional letter

Keeping score on who's gotten more out of new U.S.-Cuba policy

via @HeraldMimi

As the United States and Cuba prepare to resume diplomatic relations Monday for the first time in 54 years, the debate over who got the better deal in the historic rapprochement continues to swirl, especially in South Florida, where Cuba-watching sometimes resembles a contact sport.

Some say they see positives for both sides and a plus for the United States or say it’s not about who got the upper hand in the negotiations to end more than a half-century of hostilities. Others, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, say they see “concession after concession” made to a Cuban government that continues to crack down on dissidents and human rights activists.

“What difference does it make who gains more, especially since there is no clear loser?” asks Helene Dudley, a former Peace Corps volunteer who now works with a micro-loan program. “The people of both countries benefit from this win-win deal, and it’s impossible to gauge the ripple effects. We should drop our pettiness toward Cuba. Each side has much cause for regret in actions over the last 100 years. It is time to move forward.”

But for the Cuban-American congressional delegation, the United States got the short end of the stick in the new relationship that officially begins Monday with the opening of respective embassies in Washington, D.C., and Havana.

“The so-called negotiations by the Obama administration have resulted in nothing but a Christmas in July for the Castros,” said South Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “With nothing in return from the communist regime, the United States has managed to legitimize the Castro brothers with an American embassy in Havana, has given the Cubans access to financial institutions in the U.S., has promoted an infusion of American tourism to the island, and has delisted Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list.”

More here.