January 15, 2018

Frederica Wilson says she’ll boycott Trump’s State of the Union speech

Frederica Wilson 2

via @learyreports

Rep. Frederica Wilson says she will not attend President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, citing his “recent racist and incendiary remarks about Haiti and African nations.”

The Miami Democrat, who earlier fought with Trump over his call to the widow of a fallen soldier, announced her decision Sunday evening. Several other Democrats, including Reps. Maxine Waters, John Lewis and Earl Blumenauer, have also said they will not attend.

“For the first time since I began serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, I will not be attending the president’s State of the Union address,” Wilson said in a statement. “I have no doubt that instead of delivering a message of inclusivity and an agenda that benefits all Americans, President Trump’s address will be full of innuendo, empty promises, and lies.

“During his disappointing and destructive first year in office, Mr. Trump has demeaned the presidency at every opportunity and cast doubt on our nation’s standing as a global leader. The United States’ reputation is smoldering in the ashes of his recent racist and incendiary remarks about Haiti and African nations. Many of his proposed domestic policies are harmful to people of color, low-income communities, and the middle class. It would be an embarrassment to be seen with him at a forum that under any other president would be an honor to attend.”

Read more here.

January 12, 2018

A Miami Republican was there, but won’t say if Trump called Haiti a ‘shithole’ country

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

There were only seven lawmakers in the room when President Donald Trump reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries.” Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was one of them.

Did the Miami Republican hear the words himself? Did he challenge the president’s comment? He refuses to say, even after the lone Democrat in the room said Friday that Trump had “said hateful things, and he said them repeatedly.”

In a statement, Diaz-Balart merely confirmed that he was at the White House meeting on Thursday, but he did not back up Trump’s Twitter denial of the “shithole” comment, or the claim made by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who said Friday that Trump had said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

“For months, I have been involved in numerous high level bipartisan meetings negotiating DACA, including Thursday’s meeting at the White House,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement. “There are almost 800,000 young DACA beneficiaries who will face imminent deportation in March if we do not reach a deal. I will not be diverted from all possible efforts to continue negotiating to stop the deportations. Nothing will divert my focus to stop the deportation of these innocent people whose futures are at stake.”

Diaz-Balart left Washington, D.C., on Thursday after his meeting with Trump. A Miami Herald reporter unsuccessfully attempted on Friday to find Diaz-Balart at his office in Doral, located across the street from the Trump Doral resort.

Trump’s reported comments caused an uproar in Miami, home to the nation’s largest concentration of Haitian Americans.

“The president calling Haiti a ‘shithole country’ ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our SoFla community and nation,” Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. “Language like that shouldn't be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn't be heard in the White House.”

After the White House initially did not deny the “shithole” comment, which was first reported by the Washington Post, Trump took to Twitter on Friday morning to offer his version of events.

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump tweeted. “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made — a big setback for DACA!”

Read more here.

January 11, 2018

South Florida lawmakers defend Haiti after Trump's "shithole" comment

Cereijo_HaitianCompasFestival_18

@alextdaugherty

The ongoing high-stakes immigration debate in Washington was upended on Thursday when the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and African countries as "shitholes" when a group of lawmakers at the White House floated the idea of restoring protections for immigrants who recently lost Temporary Protected Status. 

"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump said, according to the Post. 

His comments drew condemnation from South Florida lawmakers, home to the nation's largest concentration of Haitians. 

"The president calling a 'shithole country' ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our community and nation," Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tweeted. "Language like that shouldn't be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn't be heard in the White House." 

"Under no circumstances is it acceptable to degrade, denigrate, or dehumanize immigrants," Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo tweeted. "The White House must immediately explain the situation and leave no doubt regarding what was said and in what context." 

Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, who represents Little Haiti and was the subject of public attacks from Trump last year, was succinct in her reaction. 

"Sigh," Wilson tweeted. 

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who was present at Thursday's White House meeting with Republican and Democratic negotiators, was traveling and unavailable for comment, per his office. 

UPDATE: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz weighs in: 

January 09, 2018

Diaz-Balart calls White House immigration talk 'one of the most productive meetings I've been to'

Mario Diaz-Balart (1)

@alextdaugherty

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was happy with a high-stakes immigration meeting at the White House on Tuesday where President Donald Trump's negotiating skills were displayed on live television.  

Despite the media saturation, the Miami Republican said the meeting with about two dozen Democrats and Republicans was "one of the most productive meetings I've been to" as Congress tries to find a solution to help undocumented young adults known as Dreamers who came to the U.S. as young children.

"We've been discussing these issues for a long, long time and this is one of the most productive meetings I've been to," Diaz-Balart said. "Particularly when you're talking about a large group like that, diverse and everything else. I think the president set the tone and I think it was exceedingly productive." 

Diaz-Balart said the conversation in real-time with the cameras running made lawmakers from both sides explain what they meant when using terms like "clean" and "border security." 

"One of the things that I have learned over the years is that there are certain terms that when people say them they're thinking of something, and who you are talking to is thinking of a totally different thing which is why i just don't use them," Diaz-Balart said, referring to terms like "clean," "comprehensive" and "amnesty." 

He said the exchange between Trump and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, where the President initially appeared to back a solution for Dreamers without a promise for border security, was evidence of the productivity of Tuesday's meeting. 

"When the president thinks of DACA, he's thinking of DACA and border security," Diaz-Balart said. "It was good that Sen. Feinstein said 'What are we talking about here? Her version of 'clean' and his version of 'clean' are two different things and it was clarified and that was important. But it was a very, very, very positive atmosphere."

Diaz-Balart said four items, and only four, will be part of any immigration deal between Democrats and Republicans that must pass by March when the Obama-era executive order called DACA that protects Dreamers expires. 

"That's DACA...border security, chain migration and the diversity visa lottery," Diaz-Balart said. "Some want more issues, others want less, but that's what the group agreed to." 

Diaz-Balart, who unsuccessfully pushed a massive immigration overhaul bill in 2014, is part of House Speaker Paul Ryan's immigration working group and was the only Floridian present at Tuesday's meeting. 

Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen voted against a year-end spending bill in December because it did not address Dreamers. Diaz-Balart, who is generally the most conservative Miami Republican in the House of Representatives, voted in favor of the spending plan. 

January 08, 2018

Miami Republicans oppose Trump decision to end TPS for Salvadorans

Donald trump 2

@alextdaugherty

The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that it will end Temporary Protected Status for about 200,000 Salvadorans in September 2019, and the three Miami Republicans in Congress voiced opposition to the Trump administration's decision. Monday's move comes after the Trump administration decided to end TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans last year. TPS allows foreign nationals from countries affected by disaster and unrest to live and work in the United States for a period of time. 

"I am in strong disagreement with the Administration’s decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadoran nationals who reside in the United States," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami. "These innocent people fled their home country after a disastrous earthquake, and while living conditions may have slightly improved, El Salvador now faces a significant problem with drug trafficking, gangs, and crime. Since 2001, these people have established themselves in the United States, making countless contributions to our society and our local communities. As I did with the decisions to end TPS for Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Honduran nationals who reside in the United States, I strongly urge the Administration to reconsider this decision."

"Today’s decision about Salvadoran TPS – and previous decisions about Honduran and Nicaraguan TPS – are disappointing," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami. "Many years of short-term extensions have created anxiety and uncertainty, not only for these immigrants and their families, but also for employers and neighbors who have welcomed them to our communities." 

"It is unconscionable that @POTUS would terminate the much needed  status of more than 200,000 people from  who have been here for years, working legally + sending remittances to their families," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said on Twitter. 

The three Miami Republicans, who all represent districts with large Latino populations, are signed on to a bill that would provide a path to permanent residency and American citizenship for immigrants currently living in the U.S. under TPS from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicarauga and Honduras.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is also in favor of extending TPS for Haiti, and all of the Democrats representing South Florida including Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Frederica Wilson and Sen. Bill Nelson are opposed to the Department of Homeland Security's decision. 

January 05, 2018

A year after obeying Trump on immigration, Miami-Dade still waiting for a windfall

Sessions and gimenez

@doug_hanks

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions flew to Miami in August, he promised “more money for crime fighting” as a reward for Miami-Dade dropping “sanctuary” protections from immigration violators at county jails.

But after nearly a year as one of President Donald Trump’s most lauded counties, Miami-Dade is still waiting for its federal windfall. Mayor Carlos Gimenez cited billions in rail funds Miami-Dade hoped to secure from Washington in defending the county’s immigration switch days after Trump took office. But when Trump’s transportation secretary visited Miami last fall, she offered help on permitting issues but noted: “Resources are an issue.”

Chicago is suing the Trump administration over Trump’s funding threats for sanctuary jurisdictions, but the Windy City received the same $3 million police grant from the Justice Department that Miami-Dade did in November. Before Trump became president, both jurisdictions rejected federal requests to detain people who were booked on local charges while being sought for deportation. Chicago still doesn’t, but Miami-Dade started honoring the “detainer” requests last January.

When Sessions came to Miami to cheer the county’s accepting federal requests to detain immigration offenders, the attorney general formally announced what Justice had told the county in a letter two weeks earlier: the switch on “detainers” meant the county was eligible to continue receiving help from the Byrne Grant program for local police agencies. Figures released this week by Miami-Dade’s budget office showed the county received about $700,000 in Byrne dollars last year — enough to fund the $680 million police budget for about eight hours.

“The underlying arguments were not correct,” said Melissa Taveras, spokeswoman for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a Miami-based advocacy group that opposed Gimenez’s policy change. “What we’re doing is creating more fear among our immigrant community.”

Read more here.

Rep. Ron DeSantis declares run for Florida governor

20544214

via @lmower3

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis said Friday that he's running for Florida governor, boosted by an endorsement by President Donald Trump.

"With the support of the president, I'm in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work Rick Scott has done," DeSantis said on Fox News' Fox & Friends this morning.

DeSantis, 39, is a former Navy lawyer who made his name over the last year attacking special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The Palm Coast Republican has made several appearances on Fox News, and on Dec. 22, Trump apparently took notice, tweeting that DeSantis was a "brilliant young leader" who would "make a GREAT Governor of Florida."

DeSantis' run was widely expected.

Just last week, DeSantis boasted an impressive list of billionaire backers, including Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Breitbart co-owner Rebekah Mercer. David Bossie, the president of Citizens United and Trump's deputy campaign manager in 2016, is also among the backers.

That support will make him a formidable opponent to the current Republican front-runner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and likely candidate Richard Corcoran, the Florida House speaker who has yet to declare.

Putnam, interviewed before DeSantis' announcement, said he can only focus on his own campaign.

"I'm focused on my grass-roots conservative message, which is that we're going to invest in work-force training and we're going to put vocational and technical education training back in our middle schools and high schools," he said.

January 04, 2018

Rick Scott agrees with Bill Nelson and opposes Trump's oil drilling plan

055 Hurricane Irma Gov Scott 091117

@alextdaugherty

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday that he opposes a planned measure by the Interior Department that would potentially open up Florida for offshore drilling, putting him in agreement with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Scott is likely to run against Nelson, a longtime opponent of offshore oil drilling, in 2018. 

“Based on media reports, it is likely that the Department of the Interior will consider Florida as a potential state for offshore oil drilling – which is something I oppose in Florida," Scott said in a statement. "I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary (Ryan) Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration. My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year’s budget."

Scott, an ally of President Donald Trump, was largely silent on opening up Florida for offshore oil drilling during his tenure in Tallahassee, an idea opposed by many Florida Democrats and Republicans in Congress. 

Nelson vehemently opposed the Interior Department's plan, which is expected to be officially announced later on Thursday, during a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday. He argued that loosening regulations and expanding drilling could lead to more environmentally destructive oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico. 

"I hope the public understands that and starts registering some complaints, and I hope that during that time every Floridian remembers what happened to us when the beaches of Pensacola Beach were blackened with tar and oil, and we lost a whole season of our guests, our tourists who come to this extraordinary state," Nelson said.  

January 03, 2018

Bill Nelson tries to overrule offshore oil regulation changes by the Trump administration

BillNelsonCarlJusteApril172017

@alextdaugherty 

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is turning to legislative tactics developed by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an effort to halt changes proposed by the Trump administration that would loosen regulations on offshore oil drilling. 

Nelson said he plans to invoke a procedural rule known as the Congressional Review Act to stop a ruling by the Interior Department that would end a current requirement for a third party to certify that an offshore oil rig's blowout preventer is working properly. The Congressional Review Act was initiated by Gingrich in the 1990s as a check on President Bill Clinton, but it went mostly unused until last year when Republicans in Congress used the rule to overturn a number of Obama-era regulations. 

"Almost five million barrels of oil spilled as a result of a defective device called a blowout preventer," Nelson said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "The BP spill devastated my state's economy and eleven people lost their lives. That's why I plan to subject this misguided rule to the Congressional Review Act." 

Since Democrats don't control Congress, it's unlikely that Nelson's use of the Congressional Review Act will succeed. Barack Obama simply vetoed rules that were overturned by Republicans via the Congressional Review Act when he was president, so Donald Trump could do the same if Nelson's effort is successful in Congress. 

The Interior Department is currently accepting public comments on its change to the Obama-era drilling regulations until January 29

"I hope the public understands that and starts registering some complaints, and I hope that during that time every Floridian remembers what happened to us when the beaches of Pensacola Beach were blackened with tar and oil, and we lost a whole season of our guests, our tourists who come to this extraordinary state," Nelson said.  

In 2006, Nelson and then-Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., passed a moratorium on drilling off Florida’s Gulf coast through the year 2022. Nelson filed legislation last year to extend that ban an additional five years, to 2027.

Sanctuary no more: Feds seize 1 immigration detainee per day from Miami-Dade jails

Donald trump 2

@doug_hanks

Miami-Dade jails turned over an average of one immigration detainee per day to federal authorities during 2017, a pace set by the county’s controversial decision to comply with President Donald Trump’s crackdown on people being sought for deportation.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered county jails to comply with the federal detention requests days after Trump took office on Jan. 20 and promised to withhold federal funds from local governments providing “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants. Miami-Dade had previously declined the requests under a county policy enacted four years earlier.

Gimenez’s directive brought instant praise from Trump himself on Twitter, but from elsewhere, accusations that Miami-Dade was abandoning its tradition as one of the most welcoming cities in the country for immigrants.

Since Gimenez’s Jan. 26 policy change, Miami-Dade jails have turned over 436 people — a little more than one person a day on average — to agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a year-end tally by the county released Tuesday. Federal “detainer” requests ask jails to hold suspected immigration offenders for an additional 48 hours after they have been booked on unrelated local charges. A detainer kicks in once the person would otherwise be free to leave the local jail, either through posting bail, being released until trial or after serving a sentence.

Local charges that landed undocumented people on the federal deportation track include a mix of serious crimes and minor offenses, according to a summary by Miami-Dade’s Corrections and Rehabilitation Department.

More than 100 detainees are listed as being arrested for violent crimes, from simple battery to kidnapping and attempted murder. A sampling of other offenses: about 30 who were in custody for driving without a valid driver’s license; about three dozen people charged with drug possession; two people charged with loitering; and seven, with misdemeanors related to drinking in public.

“It’s made people go back into the shadows,” said Rebeca Sanchez-Roig, a Miami immigration lawyer who said she sees clients far more fearful of county and city police. “Very often they won’t report a crime or violence, because they’re afraid they will be turned into Immigration. We have endangered communities with this policy.”

Read more here.