April 27, 2018

Carlos Curbelo signs the DREAM Act

IMG_IMG_curbelo_6_1_1TCH_7_1_USCSTTBR_L357400841 (1)

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo announced Friday he will sign onto the DREAM Act, a bill that protects young immigrants who stand to lose protection from deportation if President Donald Trump successfully cancels an Obama-era executive action known as DACA. 

"We're closer than ever to meaningful compromise on immigration," Curbelo said on Twitter. "Thankful to Rep. Jeff Denham for his work to force a vote on possible solutions in the House. Today, I co-sponsored 2 bills I would support – Rep. Will Hurd & Rep. Pete Aguilar's USA Act and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard's DREAM Act."

Immigration activists have asked Curbelo for months to co-sponsor the DREAM Act, which is considered the most expansive piece of immigration legislation that would protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation. Curbelo wrote his own piece of immigration legislation, dubbed the Recognizing America’s Children Act, a more conservative version of the DREAM Act designed to capture more Republican support.

Curbelo had previously said he would vote for any immigration bill, including the DREAM Act, if it made it to the House floor. The sole immigration bill that was recently considered by House leadership is a conservative plan that Curbelo doesn't support and the U.S. Senate tried and failed to pass a slew of immigration bills in February.

Curbelo, a Miami Republican facing reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16 percentage points, joins retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as a DREAM Act cosponsor. Ros-Lehtinen introduced this Congress' version of the DREAM Act in July 2017, and Curbelo is the sixth Republican to sign onto the bill.

Read more here.

April 11, 2018

Miami Republicans say lame-duck Paul Ryan unlikely to go rogue on immigration

Ryan_63051

@alextdaugherty

The three Miami Republicans in Congress don't think House Speaker Paul Ryan will change course and force a slew of immigration bills onto the floor for a vote now that he's announced he'll leave office at the end of his term. 

"I don't that you'll see a rogue speaker," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is also retiring after the 2018 elections. "I think he'll be doing more or less what he's been doing, listening to the conference and making decisions that he thinks are in the best interest of the conference. It would be ideal for him to pass a Dreamer bill or put something else up for discussion. I don't suspect that he will do that." 

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo are hopeful that Ryan will continue to listen to the more moderate wing of the Republican caucus.

"We have this log jam of issues that don't get resolved here, whether it be immigration or a number of others," Curbelo said. "I think Speaker Ryan's intention when he took over was to allow the House to work its will and have a more open process and in that regard I think he could have done a little better." 

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen voted against a slew of spending bills in recent months over inaction on immigration. But Curbelo changed course and voted in favor of a spending bill in the midst of a debate on young immigrants who came to the U.S. as young people because he argued enough progress had been made, a decision that angered some activists in his majority Hispanic district. 

"I changed my vote on two occasions when there was measurable progress," Curbelo said. "In one case Senator (Mitch) McConnell kept his word with regards to a immigration debate and votes on the Senate floor and the second time the Speaker made a commitment that the House would take action," Curbelo said. "Now the last time, the omnibus vote, no progress had been made and I reverted to my original position. The Speaker remains committed to solving this issue so I think we're going to have a chance to." 

Curbelo said "it's possible" that Ryan could choose to hold votes on immigration, though Republican leaders will likely have the ultimate say on whether something gets to the floor before the 2018 election. 

"I'm going to keep working on it and I can tell you that Paul Ryan has been one of the people that I've always been able to confide in on that issue," Diaz-Balart said, adding that he doesn't know that Congress will act on DACA after a deadline mandated by President Donald Trump was rendered useless by the courts. 

March 15, 2018

Court action takes pressure off Democrats to deal with GOP on immigration

Immigration Congress

@alextdaugherty

Democrats no longer have an incentive to give Republicans concessions in the ongoing immigration debate on Capitol Hill.

Money for Donald Trump’s border wall in exchange for a DACA solution? No chance.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients have been spared from deportation — for now — by a federal court order, giving Democrats the space to attack Republican-controlled Washington for failing to broker a DACA solution without getting blamed for inaction if deportations were to begin.

“Should we give a border wall for nothing? No, I don’t think so,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “There’s not a whole lot of reasons to negotiate, to do anything that is not already covered by the court decision.”

Pelosi’s comments on Thursday were in stark contrast to the way Democrats talked about DACA a few months ago, when Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., said “I'll go down there with bricks and mortar and begin the wall” if it led to a solution for DACA recipients. Just six weeks ago Pelosi gave the longest speech in the history of the House of Representatives, urging Democrats to reject a spending bill because it didn’t contain a permanent solution for DACA recipients.

But that was before a March 5 DACA deadline was rendered largely meaningless by the courts.

“While I’m happy that the DACA folks have a little bit of breathing space... the flipside of that is people have less incentive to risk it to do real negotiations,” said Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who has been talking to Democrats, House Leadership and President Donald Trump in recent months to find a DACA solution. “I think this process works on pressure and deadlines and so that hasn’t been helpful in that sense. Again, I’m relieved for the folks, but we need to find a long-term solution and right now I will tell you that momentum is kind of gone, but it’s going to come.”

DACA, created by President Barack Obama, allows certain young immigrants to live and work in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. Trump announced last year that he would not renew the program, but the Supreme Court declined to hear a fast-tracked appeal by the Justice Department that could have ended the program last month, putting its status in limbo.

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has said several times in recent weeks that Congress works best under pressure, and the momentum to strike a deal is lost without a deadline that leads to negative consequences like deporting immigrants or a government shutdown.

Read more here.

March 06, 2018

How Miami Republicans plan to help DACA recipients

Mario Diaz-Balart

Monday was supposed to be the deadline for Congress to get its act together and find a way for 690,000 young immigrants to avoid potential deportation.

But lawmakers have at least a few more months to pass a law as the court system continues to determine the legality of President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

For Miami Republicans, caught between a national party that is agitating for stricter immigration laws and a diverse constituency back home, the delay on DACA gives them more time to find a compromise but also keeps thousands of their constituents in limbo.

“It’s good news for people in the DACA program because they can continue renewing their permits,” Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said. “I have mixed feelings on what it means for us here because we know this institution [Congress] sometimes only works as deadlines approach and now there isn’t a deadline. Now, on the other hand, it gives us more time, especially here in the House, to work towards that consensus position that has eluded both the House and Senate.”

Curbelo and Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Republican leaders need to come up with a solution, though the sole immigration bill currently being considered by House leadership is a conservative plan that Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen don’t support. The U.S. Senate tried and failed to pass a slew of immigration bills last month.

“I’m incredibly disappointed that the leadership in the House and Senate have failed to find a legislative solution to protect our DREAMers,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “While a court decision has halted the Trump administration’s plan to begin deporting DACA recipients, circumstances can and do change thus Congress should not rest on this one decision. We should take action now.”

Read more here.

February 15, 2018

Rubio votes against bipartisan immigration bill; Nelson votes for it

BillNelsonCarlJusteApril172017

via @learyreports

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson were on opposite sides of a bipartisan immigration bill that died Thursday afternoon amid a veto threat from the White House.

Rubio, who helped write the 2013 bipartisan immigration overhaul, voted against the bill, while earlier indicated he could be supportive. Nelson voted for the measure.

It would have provided 1.8 million Dreamers a chance for citizenship plus budgeted $25 billion for a border wall.

The bill was crafted by moderate Republicans and Democrats billing themselves as the "Common Sense Coalition." They described the proposal as having the most bipartisan support in the Senate, but it came under fire from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.

The vote was 54-45, six votes short of the 60 needed to advance.

The moderates' measure does not alter a lottery that distributes about 55,000 visas annually to people from diverse countries. Trump has proposed ending it and redistributing its visas to other immigrants.

The group spent weeks trying to craft a middle ground on the thorny immigration issue.

The defeat casts serious doubt about a solution for the Dreamer issue.

February 13, 2018

Nelson wants a 'simple' immigration solution: DACA and border funding

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

The U.S. Senate is supposed to debate and vote on immigration legislation this week as nearly 690,000 immigrants could face deportation next month if Congress doesn't act. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Senate floor was empty, devoid of senators from either party trying to debate and propose various amendments that could save DACA recipients from potential deportation. 
 
But Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said Tuesday a group of moderate senators led by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin will offer a "simple" immigration solution that can get 60 votes in the U.S. Senate.
 
"I'm very optimistic," Nelson said. "I think that now that the process has started, when we get to what will be our amendment, which is a simple amendment, it takes care of the DACA kids, it takes care of the parents and then on the other side it takes care of the president with a wall that is, of course, many things other than concrete and steel. I think we'll get 60 votes for that, I'm very optimistic." 
 
Nelson pointed out that giving President Donald Trump about $25 billion for border security doesn't necessarily mean money for a physical wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.  
 
"A wall is many things, it's electronics, it's UAVs, it's natural boundaries, etcetera," Nelson said. 
 
He also said that proposals to deal with the so-called “chain migration” system that lets newly documented immigrants line family members up to attain legal status and the diversity visa lottery are not included in the amendment that moderates plan to offer.
 
"That is not within the simple amendment. It's being discussed and it will be offered in a version but I think the version that has the chance for the 60 votes is what I described," Nelson said, adding that Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake's plan to clear a backlog of people currently waiting for visas by using visas currently doled out in the diversity lottery won't get enough Republican support. 
 
"I don't think there's any way you get 60 votes for that," Nelson said. "I voted for comprehensive immigration but you're not going to get 11 Republicans even if you had all 49 Democrats." 
 
Nelson also said the group of moderate Senators hasn't engaged in discussions with House leaders about their amendment getting enough support in the more conservative lower chamber if it passes the Senate.
 
"We're trying to get 60 votes to get there with Senate," Nelson said. "You've got to get to first base before you can get to second base." 
 
A group of Senate conservatives are also expected introduce an amendment that mirrors Trump's preferred immigration framework. The framework includes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA-eligible immigrants in exchange for funding a wall, ending "chain-migration" and limiting the number of visas available to legal immigrants. Trump's framework is not expected to receive 60 votes in the Senate. 

February 09, 2018

Here’s what’s blocking senators from reaching a DACA deal

Daca lead

via @emma_dumain

Nearly two-dozen senators from both parties want to offer legislation next week that would protect almost 700,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation, but they're stuck on whether their measure should protect the parents of these immigrants from deportation too.

Most Democrats want to preserve the so-called “chain migration” system that lets newly documented immigrants line family members up to attain legal status. Many conservative lawmakers counter this system has to end or at least be substantially scaled back.

President Donald Trump has said DACA, an Obama-era executive action, will end March 5, so Congress is about to get serious codifying the program into law. But getting consensus is difficult, maybe even impossible.

Some Republicans say colleagues should be prepared to accept a short-term extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program if members can’t come up with a deal. Democrats want only a permanent fix.

Fierce disagreements remain over how much to spend on Trump’s border wall, and whether to eliminate the diversity lottery program that incentivizes visas for individuals from countries with lower immigration rates.

All these flashpoints are being vigorously debated among members of the self-described, self-selected “common-sense coalition” that’s been meeting in Maine Republican Susan Collins’ Capitol Hill office for the past three weeks as they prepare in preparation for a free-for-all immigration debate on the Senate floor in the days ahead.

Lawmakers have been meeting almost daily, lured by Girl Scout cookies and the optics of appearing “bipartisan” and collegial on a very complicated and politically divisive issue. They’ve even delighted over the use of a “talking stick” to curb interruptions during heated debates.

Leaving one such meeting Thursday afternoon, senators routinely cited "progress."

But so far, no amount of sweets or gimmicks have helped lawmakers overcome major divides.

The working group was formed during the government shutdown last month with a hope it could reach a deal by Thursday, in time to satisfy Democrats ahead of the next deadline to avert a government shutdown Friday morning.

The coalition’s original membership was made up almost entirely of self-described moderates, especially heavy with Democrats from red states who are vulnerable in the 2018 midterms — Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Florida’s Bill Nelson, for instance. But the group has since opened its doors to anyone who wants to get involved, which perhaps has made reaching consensus thornier.

In addition to Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., veterans of crafting immigration policy who are pushing for a more expansive pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who have called for a more restrictive DACA fix, are also now involved.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who helped write the immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013 but stalled in the House, has more recently inserted himself into these negotiations. Unlike many of his colleagues in the group who have never waded too deeply into the immigration debate in the past, Rubio is trying to temper expectations and prepare for compromise.

Rubio in particular is advising members to avoid the issue of “chain migration,” also called “family-based migration,” when it comes to the parents of DACA recipients.

“We are likelier to pass a bill that is silent on the parents,” Rubio said Thursday. “That doesn’t mean it’s not a sympathetic population, but I would say there are similarly sympathetic populations that are not being addressed no matter what we do.”

Read more here.

How South Florida lawmakers voted on a budget deal without a DACA fix

819931778

@alextdaugherty

The federal government briefly shut down while you were sleeping, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul held up a massive $300 billion budget bill that keeps the government running until March 23rd because it increased the federal deficit. House Democratic leaders also opposed the bill because Speaker Paul Ryan hasn't committed to an open debate on a solution for 690,000 DACA recipients who could be eligible for deportation as soon as March. 

The bill eventually passed the U.S. Senate at 1:30am by a 71-28 margin and the U.S. House at 5:30am by a 240-186 margin. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on Friday morning, reopening the federal government after it shut down at midnight. The massive budget bill included billions in disaster funding for Florida and Puerto Rico along with an increase in defense spending and budget caps. 

Here's how South Florida's members of Congress voted: 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R): Yes

Rubio praised the deal as a bipartisan compromise that gave Florida much-needed disaster relief. “While no one wants to have a hurricane and no one wants to have a natural disaster, I think this is a response that we should be happy about,” Rubio said on Wednesday. He did voice concerns over the deficit despite voting yes. 

"Throughout my time in the Senate, my support for increasing the debt limit has been consistently conditioned on meaningful spending reforms that address our long-term debt," Rubio said in a statement after the vote. "This budget deal does not do that. We must begin to seriously address the long-term drivers of our debt and get our fiscal house back in order. We cannot do that if we continue to govern through short term continuing resolutions that inefficiently spend taxpayer dollars and fail to provide the certainty required for effective planning."

Sen. Bill Nelson (D): Yes

Nelson spoke alongside Rubio on the Senate floor to praise the deal after it was announced. "Senator Rubio and I have been talking about all the things we have done together in trying to get this disaster aid package to finally come to the point at which we can say we are so thankful that we see a path forward,” Nelson said.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R): Yes

Curbelo had voted against multiple spending bills because a DACA solution wasn't imminent. But hours before the vote on Thursday Curbelo switched his stance after Ryan said he would "bring a solution to the floor." 

In a statement released Thursday, Curbelo said Ryan "delivered his strongest commitment yet that legislation will be considered on the floor of the House" and that was enough to change his vote. 

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R): No 

Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring in 2018, was the only Republican in Congress to join Democrats and vote against the budget bill because it didn't include a DACA solution. 

“I will vote NO, as I have pledged to do so in the past," Ros-Lehtinen said in an email on Thursday. 

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R): Yes

Diaz-Balart, an ally of leadership, has consistently voted in favor of short-term spending bills in recent months. 

"This bipartisan legislation continues government operations and funds programs that are critical to Americans across the nation. It also invests in our military during a time where we must provide our troops with the proper resources to defend our country, help our allies, and stand up to our adversaries," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "I represent parts of Florida that are still rebuilding from Hurricane Irma, and the $89.3 billion supplemental will go a long way in helping these communities recover from storm damage."

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D): No

Wilson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus that opposed the deal and one of the more liberal members of Congress, voted no. 

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D): No 

Wasserman Schultz was a firm no hours before the vote as some Democrats wavered on whether or not to follow leader Nancy Pelosi and vote no or vote to keep the government open without a DACA solution. 

Rep. Ted Deutch (D): Yes

In a statement, Deutch said he voted for the budget bill to keep the government open "finally beyond just weeks." The bill keeps the government running until March 23rd. 

"Tonight, I voted for a compromise budget deal because it will allow us to keep the government running, finally beyond just weeks," Deutch said. "This bill helps the millions of Americans in Florida and Puerto Rico, Texas, California and the Virgin Islands whose lives were turned upside down by natural disasters. It provides a potential lifeline to families struggling with opioid addiction."

He also added that Congress must focus on passing the DREAM Act to help DACA recipients. President Donald Trump has indicated he does not support the DREAM Act. 

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D): No

Hastings is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus that opposed the deal and is one of the more liberal members of Congress. 

They have been smeared, glorified, made political pawns. But who are the ‘Dreamers’ really?

Dreamers

@glenngarvin @alextdaugherty 

They touched off a political debate that has roiled American politics for years and even briefly shut down the entire federal government last month. But for all their political impact, in a country where demographics are computed, compounded, sliced and diced on practically an hourly basis, the young undocumented immigrants with DACA status live like phantoms in a statistical haze.

“We really know very little about them,” says Jessica Vaughan, directory of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors less immigration. “For a group that’s been at the center of so much controversy, we have hardly any idea of their educational and economic attainment.”

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a status that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children before 2007 to keep living and working here without fear of deportation.

DACA has been controversial since its inception — President Obama created it in 2012 through executive order rather than getting Congress to make it a law — and President Trump’s vow to abolish it next month triggered a brief shutdown of the federal government. This past week, the president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, stirred outrage among some when he suggested that those who were eligible for DACA but didn’t sign up were “too lazy” to get off the couch. On Wednesday Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi commandeered the House floor for eight straight hours, the longest speech in the chamber in a century, seeking to have their status resolved as part of the latest spending plan.

Another political flashpoint is approaching, with DACA set to expire on March 5 unless President Trump and Congress can work out a compromise. Democrats have accused the president of holding the immigrants “hostage” to his desire to get Congress pay for a wall on the border with Mexico and curb legal immigration. As the controversy heats up, some supporters try to idealize DACA recipients as model citizens, while some opponents try to demonize them.

But there’s little statistical evidence to support either side. The U.S. government doesn’t collect much data on DACA recipients, and private research has met with limited success. “This is a hard-to-reach population,” says Roberto G. Gonzales, a Harvard education professor whose five-year study of 2,684 young DACA-eligible immigrants is generally considered the most extensive research project on the subject.

“Many of our traditional measures to get a representative sample don’t work well on this. It’s very difficult to do. I’m confident in our research, but you can’t extrapolate it to the entire DACA population. What we say is, it’s a very good snapshot of our sample of 2,684 people. And that’s all it is.”

Because a few hundred of those people, though they were eligible for DACA, never got around to obtaining the status, the real sample of recipients is a bit less than 2,400 — a tiny percentage of the 690,000 or so immigrants who actually have their DACA papers.

Read more here.

February 08, 2018

Curbelo to vote for spending bill without DACA fix

Curbelo (1)

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo will vote in favor of a massive $300 billion spending bill even though a solution for 689,000 DACA recipients isn't included in the package. 

In a statement released Thursday, Curbelo said Speaker Paul Ryan "delivered his strongest commitment yet that legislation will be considered on the floor of the House." 

"One of my chief legislative priorities this Congress and the last, has been to forge a compromise on immigration that delivers a fair, permanent solution for young immigrants brought to our country as children, while securing the border so future illegal entry is discouraged and diminished," Curbelo said. "The main obstacles to that goal have been Congressional Leaders' refusal to allow each Chamber to consider legislation on the Floor and the objections of extremists in both parties."

Curbelo said Ryan's comments on Thursday morning were enough to sway his vote.

"To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not," Ryan said during a press conference. "We will bring a solution to the floor, one the President will sign." 

Curbelo had voted against previous short-term spending bills, including one earlier this week, because a DACA solution wasn't imminent. 

Retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she will still vote against the bill due to concerns on immigration. 

“I will vote NO, as I have pledged to do so in the past,” Ros-Lehtinen said in an email. 

Ros-Lehtinen is the only Republican likely to vote against the spending bill over concerns on immigration. 

The bill, which funds the federal government past 11:59pm Thursday, faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives as some conservative Republicans will vote against it due to its effects on the deficit. Ryan will likely need Democratic votes to pass the spending bill, but its unclear whether Democratic leadership will persuade members to vote against it because of the lack of an immigration compromise.