June 23, 2016

Curbelo rivals take aim over Supreme Court immigration ruling

@PatriciaMazzei

The two Democrats vying to challenge U.S. Carlos Curbelo leaped at the chance Thursday to pound the Miami Republican over the Supreme Court's ruling to block one of President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Annette Taddeo and former Rep. Joe Garcia noted Curbelo had characterized the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, overreach by the White House. The court deadlocked 4-4 over the program, allowing a lower appeals court decision against its constitutionality to stand. The late Justice Antonin Scalia has not been replaced.

"It's a sad day for immigrant families and the many activists who have fought for real change," Garcia said in a statement. "When Republicans refused to put my comprehensive immigration reform bill to a vote, I supported President Obama's actions. Now, two years later, Republican still won't take up immigration reform, or even fill the Supreme Court's vacancy, all while they continue to push immigrants into the shadows."

DAPA would have allowed the parents of lawful permanent residents -- in effect, the parents who brought their children into the country illegally -- to apply for a program protecting them from deportation.

"I'm heartbroken by today's Supreme Court decision," Taddeo said in a statement. "It's a big blow to Hispanic families in South Florida. Families continue to be torn apart because of our broken immigration system, and instead of solving the problem, Carlos Curbelo and his Republican buddies in Congress continue to shift the blame elsewhere."

Taddeo also blasted Curbelo on Twitter, saying if he "really cared about South Florida's immigrant families, he wouldn't be applauding" the decision -- even though Curbelo didn't actually praise the court.

He and other Republicans said in a joint statement Thursday that the court ruling did not solve the immigration problem and Congress should "work together" to fix the system. Last week, he and Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen led the effort to defeat a House amendment against Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Garcia and Taddeo, however, argue Curbelo has moderated his position in office, given that his newly redrawn district is more Democratic, as is the presidential-election year electorate. Garcia noted Curbelo said in 2014 that he did "not support amnesty" for undocumented immigrants and thought the U.S. should return children crossing the border back to their home countries.

This post has been updated.

Pro-Clinton super PACs release web ad about Supreme Court immigration decision

@PatriciaMazzei

Hillary Clinton's allies were ready for the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday to block the program known as DAPA, one of President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Just a few hours after the court's decision came down, the Latino Victory Fund and Priorities USA, both super PACs, said they kicked off a five-figure online ad campaign reminding voters that DACA, Obama's first-deportation protection program, is still valid -- and that Donald Trump would like to get rid of them both.

The web ads will target Florida, Colorado and Nevada.

 

2 pro-immigration reform groups praise Curbelo's new DREAM Act

@PatriciaMazzei

New legislation offering legal status to people brought into the country illegally as children has won the praise of a pair of national groups promoting immigration reform.

The Recognizing American Children Act, filed by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, has the support of FWD.us, a Silicon Valley organization co-founded by Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, and of the National Immigration Forum, a conservative immigration advocacy group.

"In a period where the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is calling for the forced mass deportation of every single undocumented immigrant in the United States, we are encouraged that these Congressmen are working in a different and constructive way," FWD.us said Wednesday in a statement.

The National Immigration Forum also applauded the bill's "tone" -- but also noted "shortcomings," such as a shorter eligibility period than the comprehensive reform bill the Senate passed in 2013.

"It is fantastic to see some leadership on immigration among House Republicans," the group's executive director, Ali Noorani, said in a statement. "Despite some room for improvement, this proposal stands favorably next to the messages about mass deportation and walls that have ruled the Republican presidential campaign."

Curbelo's proposal, co-sponsored with Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, is the latest version of the so-called DREAM Act, a law that failed in the Senate and prompted President Barack Obama to take executive action to protect some young immigrants from deportation. Both Curbelo and Coffman are running for re-election in swing districts this fall.

Rubio and fellow Miami Republicans react to SCOTUS immigration decision

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio lauded the Supreme Court on Thursday on its decision to keep blocking a plan by President Barack Obama to let scores of people in the country illegally remain in the U.S.

The court, still missing a ninth member after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, deadlocked 4-4 on the issue. That left standing an earlier appeals court decision prohibiting the Obama administration from implementing its Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.

"This is the right decision," Rubio said in a statement. "No matter what solutions one may prefer to fix our broken immigration system, those policies must be pursued and passed into law by Congress."

But he and the other South Florida politicians -- all of whom have supported immigration reform -- also said Congress must also act.

"While the Supreme Court's decision makes clear that President Obama has acted lawlessly, it does not leave Congress off the hook either," Rubio said.

Miami's three Republican House members -- Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo -- were even more critical of lawmakers (many of them in the GOP) who have failed to address immigration issues.

"The Supreme Court has spoken, but today's decision does not resolve the issue," they said in a joint statement. "The American people expect Congress to work together to secure our borders, adhere to the rule of law, offer a humane solution to those living in the shadows, modernize our visa system, and bolster the economy. We are committed to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all."

Joining the Miamians in their position were Republican Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Dan Newhouse of Washington, David Valadao of California, Jeff Denham of California, and Bob Dold of Illinois.

June 21, 2016

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo files new DREAM Act

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Tuesday filed legislation that would allow people brought into the U.S. illegally as children before 2010 to remain in the country -- a new version of the so-called DREAM Act.

Under the proposed law, immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally before Jan. 1, 2010, and were 16 years old or younger, could follow a path to U.S. citizenship.

The "Recognizing American Children Act" would offer high school graduates without a serious criminal record or dependence on public assistance conditional immigration status for five years. During that time, they could follow one of three ways to remain in the country permanently. If they receive a higher-education degree, serve in the military or remain employed, they could apply for permanent residency -- and, later, citizenship. Those enlisted in the military would get an immediate chance at naturalization.

"There are many young immigrants in our country who came involuntarily with their families as minors. They have grown up with our own kids and attended American schools -- many speaking only English," Curbelo said in a statement. "Today they are trying to make a contribution to our great nation through the economy or the military. These are undoubtedly America's children."

Curbelo filed the legislation with a fellow Republican, Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado. Both represent two of the most competitive swing districts in the country, in states with a significant proportion of Hispanic voters. Coffman has received money from Curbelo's political committee, What a Country PAC, intended to support Republican members of Congress who like Curbelo back immigration reform. Curbelo's Westchester-to-Key West district leans in Democrats' favor.

Continue reading "Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo files new DREAM Act" »

May 25, 2016

CBO report says ending automatic Cuban refugee payments would save money

@PatriciaMazzei

It seems obvious, but now a nonpartisan report confirms it: Ending automatic welfare payments to Cuban immigrants would save the federal government money.

That’s according to the Congressional Budget Office, which analyzed proposed legislation by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Sen. Marco Rubio, two Cuban-American Republicans.

The CBO estimated the feds would save $2.45 billion over 10 years if recently arrived Cubans were no longer treated automatically as refugees deserving of food stamps and other aid. About $1.05 billion would be saved from 2017-21, and another $1.4 billion from 2022-27.

The savings give Curbelo and Rubio a new selling point for their bill, which they filed to curtail abuse by some Cuban immigrants who send the money back to the island. GOP leaders in Congress — particularly House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — have said they’re not interested in taking up immigration legislation. With the CBO report in hand, Rubio and Curbelo might have better luck pitching their proposal as a way to save money.

More here.

May 20, 2016

Andrew Korge attacks Anitere Flores on immigration but omits key facts

@PatriciaMazzei

Democrat Andrew Korge is a third-generation Miamian with Greek roots. But he’s running for a Florida state Senate district where the majority of voters are Hispanic.

So Korge seized on a Spanish-language radio interview this week to show off his Latino cred. He introduced himself in Spanish, saying he speaks only “a little” of the language, “but I love Hispanics and Latinos.” He Hispanicized his last name, pronouncing it “CORE-hay.” He claimed his friends call him “El Gordo.”

And then he dropped the name of his Republican opponent, Sen. Anitere Flores, in the same sentence as “Arizona-style immigration bill” and “Donald Trump.”

“She proposed an Arizona-style immigration bill in 2011. Donald Trump supports that bill,” Korge told Zeta 92.3 FM’s Ahora con Oscar Haza on Monday, noting his mother immigrated to the U.S from Greece. “Whether you are a Latino or griego, that is a crazy bill that no one should ever propose.”

But Korge is distorting Flores’ record. While it’s true she sponsored a 2011 Senate immigration bill, it was well-known at the time that she did so to make sure the legislation would not be like the Arizona crackdown that allowed cops to ask for papers.

Flores’ position so upset then-Senate President Mike Haridopolos that he ended up yanking the bill from her hands. She ultimately voted against it.

“I have no problem defending my record. I do have a problem with people distorting my record and in this case saying something that is a blatant lie,” Flores said. “Had it not been me the one that was involved in this issue in the beginning, we would have maybe ended up with an Arizona law. The reason we didn’t is we said no, we’re going to deal with this issue delicately.”

Continue reading "Andrew Korge attacks Anitere Flores on immigration but omits key facts" »

May 13, 2016

Miami GOP congressman plans to file new DREAM Act

@PatriciaMazzei

A newsy nugget from our story about U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo's political survival in the age of Donald Trump: The Miami Republican plans to soon file a new version of the DREAM Act.

Within a few weeks, Curbelo plans to file the sort of big legislation he can campaign on in a general election, even if the bill has virtually no chance of getting a vote: a new version of the DREAM Act — renamed Recognizing America’s Children Act — that would allow immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to stay.

Curbelo offered few details about his bill, but he told the Herald it's important to change the proposal's name to give it a fresh start. The new name -- acronym RACA -- might "put pressure" on legislators to do the "recognizing" of the young immigrants, he said.

March 18, 2016

South Florida Republicans break with GOP in deportation vote

@jamesmartinrose

Only five Republican lawmakers stood up to their party leader in voting against allowing House Speaker Paul Ryan to file an amicus brief opposing President Barack Obama's decision to withhold deportation for more than 5 million undocumented immigrants.

All three Cuban-American representatives from South Florida -- Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo -- were among the five Republicans who voted against a resolution that the House passed Thursday almost entirely along party lines.

The Supreme Court next month will hear a case brought by Texas, joined by Florida and 24 other states, arguing that Obama's bid to shield about 5.2 million illegal aliens from deportation imposes unaffordable health-care, education, law-enforcement and other costs on them.

Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who replaced Ohioan John Boehner as speaker in October, acknowledged that House intervention in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court was unprecedented, but he insisted it was necessary to prevent executive overreach by Obama.

With no Democrats voting for the bill, Ryan and other Republicans said Obama's executive orders dating to 2012 amount to the president legislating immigration reform without going through Congress.

"I recognize that this is a very extraordinary step," Ryan said on the House floor. "I feel it is very necessary, though. In fact, I believe this is vital."

In a joint statement Friday, Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart said that although individual members of Congress have the right to file briefs supporting court cases, the House as a whole should not do so.

"All amicus briefs should carry the same weight, and beginning this pattern may signal to the Supreme Court that Congress is prioritizing certain cases over others," the two Miami Republicans said.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a first-term Republican from Kendall, went further. He accused Republicans of playing politics with the important issue of immigration.

"For two long, both parties have preferred to score petty political points using the immigration issue rather than passing meaningful reform to secure the border, reform our visa system and find a fair solution for the undocumented," Curbelo said.

"The surest and most constitutionally solvent way to end the president's executive overreach is to pass meaningful immigration reform, not by employing empty tactics that ignore the root cause of the problem," he said.

The two other Republicans who voted against the House resolution were Reps. Richard Hanna of New York and Robert Dold of Illinois. Rep. Alex Mooney, a West Virginia Republican and one of five other Cuban-Americans in Congress, voted for the measure, which passed by a 234-186 margin.

Among Florida's 24 other U.S. House members, 22 voted along party lines, with Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel and Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan failing to vote.

Nine other Florida Democrats voted against the measure, among them Reps. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Two lower courts have ruled in favor of the states, most recently the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans.

With only eight justices on the Supreme Court since Justice Antonin Scalia's death last month, a 4-4 decision after the scheduled April 18 arguments would uphold the lower courts' rulings and overturn Obama's executive orders protecting millions of undocumented parents and their children from deportation.

Obama on Wednesday chose Merrick Garland, a former federal prosecutor and current judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to replace Scalia on the high court, but Senate Republican leaders are refusing to take a vote or even hold hearings on the nomination, saying Obama has only 10 months left in office.

Immigration has become perhaps the most divisive issue in the presidential campaign, with Republican front-runner Donald Trump vowing to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat of Puerto Rican descent, ridiculed Republican lawmakers, many of whom he said have disingenuously tried to distance themselves from Trump's hardline stance on immigration.

"They keep saying, 'Well, Trump doesn't represent us, he doesn't (represent) our views, he doesn't represent our values,' and now they want to know where Trump gets all of his anti-immigrant, xenophobic views from," Gutierrez told reporters. "Try the House of Republicans."

In a speech Friday on the House floor, Gutierrez accused his Republican colleagues of "stoking anti-immigrant fears and mass-deportation fantasies."

"The vote is a political stunt disguised as a legal brief because the Republican majority sees a crass political opportunity to stand with the anti-immigration wing of their party," he said.  

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and 60 individual business leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, filed an amicus brief supporting Obama last week.

Before the vote Thursday, Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said "the Latino community is being used for political purposes."

Sanchez added: "We are being demonized, we are being marginalized, and we see a frightening level of hateful rhetoric and vile hate speech aimed at our community, and nobody is standing up within the Republican Party to say that this is unacceptable."

America's Voice, a pro-immigration advocacy group, said the vote Thursday was the eighth "anti-immigration" vote taken by Republicans in the current session of Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 223 other Democrats filed an amicus brief backing Obama earlier this month, but there was no vote on the brief and it represents them as individuals.

In still another amicus brief, almost 120 cities and counties across the United States on March 8 expressed support for Obama, among them Pembroke Pines, Tampa and Sunrise.

 

March 16, 2016

Exit polls: Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton took Florida Hispanic vote

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio took 52 percent of the Hispanic vote in Florida vs. 27 percent for Donald Trump, according to exit polls.

Hispanics made up 17 percent of the GOP primary electorate in Florida. They made up 20 percent on the Democratic side and went for Hillary Clinton overBernie Sanders by a 72-28 percent margin.

Immigration ranked fourth among Republicans as the top issue (12%), behind economy/jobs (35%), government spending (26%), and terrorism (22%).

By a 53%-38% margin, Florida Republicans believe undocumented immigrants should be offered legal status (54%) instead of deported (38%).

Frank Sharry of America's Voice said Rubio's contortions on immigration reform were "an embarrassment."

"Marco Rubio's cautionary tale is not that he stood up for immigration reform, it's that he didn't," Sharry said on a conference call to discuss the exit polls.

"There are so many Cuban-American Republicans who have had this tradition of standing up for immigration reform, from Mel Martinez to Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart and people like Al Cardenas. Rubio running from it was really an embarrassment. He could have stood up and said, 'Look, not only are we going to solve the problem but here are some of the aspects of the bill that I fought for that are very conservative that would have been real instead of all this talk of walls.' He didn't. He listened to his pollsters. ... He had a very confused message that was again trying to be all things for all people and ultimately it became a character issue for him."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times