June 25, 2018

Nelson says top Trump official barred him from seeing immigrant children in Homestead

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

Bill Nelson was on his way to the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children last Tuesday, attempting to gain access to the second-largest shelter in the country for children who crossed the border illegally by themselves or with their parents, when he called a top Trump administration official to get access. 

As he drove from Miami International Airport to South Dade, the Florida Democrat said he tried to call Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar but was instead referred to Deputy Secretary Eric Hargen.

Nelson said the number two official at the federal agency responsible for the Homestead facility told him it would take two weeks to schedule a tour.

"We had a rather heated conversation," Nelson said. "He said the policy of the department is that you fill out the forms, which I had done on Monday, and you have to wait two weeks. To which I replied 'Mr. Secretary, you and I both know that's bullhockey.'"

Nelson said the Trump administration's decision to deny his tour request was based on partisan politics as he fights for reelection against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a supporter of the president.

"It's pretty obvious that this was being directed from on high," Nelson said.

An HHS spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Two days after Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to visit the Homestead facility, HHS officials sent an email to lawmakers allowing them to request a tour of Homestead and other facilities around the country at predetermined times due to a high demand for visits. Lawmakers were not allowed to photograph or record their visits, and they were not allowed to speak with the children.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and about 20 members of the press toured the facility on Friday while Nelson and Florida Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson, Ted Deutch, Darren Soto and Wasserman Schultz toured the facility on Saturday. Scott has not toured the Homestead facility yet, though other state-level elected officials were told on Saturday they also had to wait two weeks to enter.

Nelson also said he was unable to meet with the woman in charge of reuniting the children at Homestead with their parents, because she wasn't working on Saturday. He plans to speak with Azar in Washington on Tuesday.

 

June 21, 2018

U.S. Chamber runs ad thanking Curbelo for immigration work

Curbelo (1)

@alextdaugherty

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is going to bat for Rep. Carlos Curbelo in the midst of an immigration fight. 

The Miami Republican has spent weeks negotiating with GOP leadership, the conservative wing of his own party and Democrats in an attempt to pass an immigration bill in the House of Representatives. 

Those efforts could fall short today if an all-GOP immigration compromise bill fails on the floor of the House, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is cutting an ad on behalf of Curbelo thanking him for his work on the issue. 

"Do you want to protect Dreamers? Carlos Curbelo does," the ad says. "Carlos believes Dreamers belong here, they are one of us and deserve permanent legal status. Help stop the unfair treatment of Dreamers, protect DACA, stand with Carlos." 

The ad is part of an initial digital buy that will later transition into a larger TV ad buy, according to U.S. Chamber communications director Stacy Day. 

Curbelo likely faces a serious challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in November, who has hammered the Miami Republican in recent days for negotiating with the conservative wing of his own party on an immigration bill after a petition led by Curbelo that would have forced immigration votes with the help of Democrats failed. 

The compromise immigration bill includes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants known as Dreamers though it will permanently reduce the number of immigration visas available every year.

Watch the ad below: 

 

June 20, 2018

Curbelo says children at Homestead separated from their parents will be reunited

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told him during a meeting on Wednesday that the 94 children residing at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children will be returned to their parents due to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump that temporarily ends the White House's child separation policy. 

Curbelo said the children will be transferred from Health and Human Services custody to Department of Homeland Security custody to be reunited once the Department of Justice is finished prosecuting the parents who are currently separated from their children. 

"We're trying to get a time and a date to visit the facility," Curbelo said, adding that he thinks Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz should have been let into the shelter on Tuesday. 

The Homestead facility is located within Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district, as the Miami Republican tries to find enough Republican votes to pass a compromise immigration bill on Thursday. A number of conservative Republicans appeared upset with Speaker Paul Ryan during House votes on Thursday, and if they vote en masse against the compromise bill it will fail. 

Trump's executive order is a shift from yesterday when the president claimed he couldn't act to end family separation without a bill from Congress. The executive order would end the policy of separating children from their parents while keeping families who attempt to cross the border illegally in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security. 

"We're signing an executive order," Trump said. "I consider it to be a very important executive order. It's about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure we have a very powerful, very strong border." 

June 19, 2018

Nelson, Wasserman Schultz blocked from entering immigrant children shelter in Homestead

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@newsbysmiley @brendamedinar

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz were denied access Tuesday to a Homestead facility where as many as 1,000 unaccompanied immigrant children are being held.

Nelson and Wasserman Schultz, both Democrats, tried to enter the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children a day after Wasserman Schultz announced that she'd learned Health and Human Services had transferred hundreds of children to the South Miami-Dade site. The center, which HHS says is only temporary, held unaccompanied minors during the Obama administration.

"The company running this facility told us we would be welcomed to tour the facility," Nelson said on Twitter. "HHS then denied us entry and said that they need 'two weeks notice' to allow us inside. That’s ridiculous and it’s clear this administration is hiding something."

 

It remains unclear just what role the Homestead facility is playing in the new and controversial immigration crackdown under President Donald Trump. The center may be housing children who entered the country without parents, or housing them after authorities took them from their parents after the family entered the United States illegally, or a mix of both. An HHS spokesman has declined to clarify.

The facility closed last year amid a sharp decline in illegal border crossings under Trump, easing the flow of unaccompanied minors needing housing. Washington reopened the facility earlier this year without public notice, and the new population of minors did not receive media attention until Wasserman Schultz disclosed it during an event Monday.

Read more here.

Voters in Carlos Curbelo's district are opposed to separating families at the border, poll shows

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@alextdaugherty

Two-thirds of voters in Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's congressional district are opposed to a newly enforced Trump administration policy that separates parents from their children when they cross the border illegally, according to a new poll commissioned by Equity Forward and conducted by the left-leaning polling firm Global Strategy Group. 

 

Voters in Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district opposed the new "zero tolerance" policy 64 percent to 27 percent, with 8 percent who didn't take a position. The majority of voters, 81 percent, said they had heard about the recent policy announcement that has led children to be held in empty big-box stores as they cry for their parents. "

"Congressman Curbelo’s constituents are deeply opposed to the Trump “zero tolerance” policy that has separated over 2,300 children from their parents in just six weeks and Curbelo faces a
major backlash from constituents if he refuses to act to stop the separations," the polling firm said in a release. "Voters–including a significant number of Republicans and Trump supporters–strongly support Congressional action to stop this new policy and to increase the accountability and transparency of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)–an Office within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which is charged with caring for the children detained as a result of this unprecedented policy." 
 
Curbelo has said he does not support the policy, and is attempting to address the issue in an all-GOP immigration compromise bill that could receive a vote in the House of Representatives this week. Curbelo called the separation policy "a tragedy" on Twitter over the weekend, and referenced former President Barack Obama's policy of detaining families and unaccompanied minors.

"While some tolerated it when it happened under the previous administration, I found it unacceptable then & I find it unacceptable now," Curbelo tweeted. "We’re crafting legislation to remedy this sad situation." 
 
Curbelo's likely Democratic opponent, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, also condemned the Trump administration's decision. 
 
"This is truly heartbreaking. We need action now," Mucarsel-Powell tweeted. "This inhumane and cruel practice against innocent children cannot continue."
 
The race between Curbelo and Mucarsel-Powell will be closely watched this year by both national parties, and will likely see both candidates raise and spend millions in an attempt to control the House of Representatives. Curbelo represents a district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump by 16 percentage points, the largest margin of victory for Clinton in a congressional district held by a Republican running for reelection in 2018. 
 
The Global Strategy Group polled 402 likely general election voters in Curbelo's district from June 12 to 17. The survey has a margin of error 4.9 percentage points. The poll used landlines and cellphones, and was conducted in English and Spanish. 

June 18, 2018

Miami Republicans condemn Trump policy of separating families at the border

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@alextdaugherty

Republicans from Miami-Dade on Monday condenmed the Trump administration's decision to separate families crossing the southern border, with adults being sent to detention centers while their children are housed in cages and cry for their parents.

"It is totally unacceptable, for any reason, to purposely separate minor children from their parents," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, who, along with Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is leading negotiations on a compromise all-Republican immigration bill in Congress. "Any and every other option should be implemented in order to not separate minors from their parents, which I believe is unconscionable. We cannot allow for this to continue happening, and it must stop. I continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that the provision included in this week's immigration bill puts an end to this cruel practice.”

Curbelo called the separation policy "a tragedy" on Twitter over the weekend, and referenced former President Barack Obama's policy of detaining families and unaccompanied minors.

"While some tolerated it when it happened under the previous administration, I found it unacceptable then & I find it unacceptable now," Curbelo tweeted. "We’re crafting legislation to remedy this sad situation."

The White House announced the policy in April as a way to deter immigrants from entering the country illegally, and administration officials have defended it in the face of widespread criticisms from across the political spectrum.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio advocated for changing laws to allow families to stay together while being held in detention instead of separating them. Current law does not require separating families who cross the border illegally, and the compromise immigration bill includes a provision that would end the practice.

"Currently govt must either release parents & continue incentive for illegal entry with children or separate families by detaining parents," Rubio tweeted. "Neither is good. Lets change the law to allow families to be held together at family facilities & shorten detention with expedited hearings." 

Read more here.

June 15, 2018

Republicans blindsided by Trump opposition to immigration plan

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@alextdaugherty

House Republicans who spent months carefully crafting an immigration reform plan found themselves not rounding up votes on Friday but refreshing their phones to see if a presidential tweet would blow up the entire effort.

President Donald Trump had just thrown a wrench in months of immigration talks, saying in an early morning interview with Fox News he "certainly won't sign" the all-GOP compromise immigration bill.

As a result, House Republicans who had planned votes on two immigration bills next week went home unsure what would come next. The House does not plan to return to Washington until late Tuesday.

Don't fret, Republicans said, the president will surely clarify his remarks.

"I think if we get that clarification then I think we're still good to go," said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, one of the Republicans who had earlier considered forcing a series of immigration votes on the House floor against the wishes of GOP leaders.

Three hours later, the tweet came.

"The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda," Trump tweeted. "Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!"

Trump's tweet didn't acknowledge the most important part of any deal for Republicans like Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart: a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as young children.

Democrats hate the all-Republican immigration deal hatched this week. Staunch conservative Republicans are balking at the deal, too.

The deal now hinges on Trump's support, or lack of it.

"This bill will be difficult to pass with Republican votes only unless President Trump says that he is considering supporting it, that might be good enough, even if he doesn't say I will sign it," said Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "If you're a Republican and you're facing a challenging political environment and the president who is very popular in your district, not mine, says that he's against this bill why in the world would you vote in favor of it?"

Read more here.

June 14, 2018

GOP immigration bill overturns policy of separating families who cross the border

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@kateirby @alextdaugherty

Republicans crafting an immigration bill want to overturn a contentious component of President Donald Trump's border enforcement strategy: Separating parents and children who cross the border together.

Children who cross the border with their parents can only be released back to their parents, even if that would mean putting the family in a detention facility, under immigration legislation being drafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Its text, released Thursday, would require that officials place children who crossed the border with a parent or legal guardian only be placed with that parent or guardian, not any other relatives or foster settings.

"In no circumstances shall an alien minor who is not an unaccompanied alien child be released by the Secretary of Homeland Security other than to a parent or legal guardian," the text reads.

The 293-page bill, a compromise between Republicans looking to reform immigration law and the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is likely to face a House vote next week. It's possible the bill will be amended before a vote next week.

Under the recently announced zero-tolerance policy of President Donald Trump's administration, children and parents (or legal guardians) who cross the border together are separated. That's because the adult is at least temporarily placed in a detention facility, while current law says children have to be placed in the "least restrictive" setting.

The zero-tolerance policy, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April, charges all adults who cross the border unlawfully with a crime, even if they're seeking asylum.

The policy has gained widespread attention in recent days with dozens of demonstrations planned around the country to protest separating children and their parents.

Read more here.

Two Miami Republicans play key role in immigration compromise

Curbelo (1)

@alextdaugherty

Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo walked into House Speaker Paul Ryan's office on Tuesday, intent on solving 20 years of immigration inaction in 70 minutes.

They got close.

An effort by the Miami Republicans to force a series of immigration votes in defiance of Ryan came up short, and a faction of Republicans including Diaz-Balart and Curbelo who want to find a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants known as Dreamers were forced to compromise with conservative Republicans.

The compromise is a yet-unreleased bill drafted by Ryan that includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for cuts to visas doled out through a lottery and to the family members of immigrants, along with $25 billion for border security. 

"There are things that I really dislike in the bill but I think there has been a very good-faith effort to do something that can hopefully pass," Diaz-Balart said. "My ideal, preferred option is to do a bipartisan bill on this, but we don't have that option."

Diaz-Balart is a veteran of past immigration negotiations, but Curbelo wasn't in Congress when the House decided not to vote on a comprehensive immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013. Curbelo initiated a petition last month that would have forced a series of votes on four immigration bills, a gambit that put the immigration issue back on the front burner after the lack of a court decision on the fate of Dreamers in March pushed the immigration issue to second-tier status.

"Think about where we were a month ago," Curbelo said. "We're about to get major immigration legislation to the floor."

The immigration legislation, which doesn't exist as a bill yet, is a compromise among Republicans. Democrats aren't likely to support the bill even though a small group of far-right Republicans will likely vote against the compromise legislation.

"It’s now clear the only way Republicans will consider miserly relief for some Dreamers is if the proposal guts legal immigration, turbocharges deportations, builds a wasteful and unnecessary wall, and intensifies the torture of asylum seekers at the border," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a left-leaning immigration group. "Any member of Congress who says they stand for Dreamers cannot in good conscience support these bills."

Read more here.

June 08, 2018

Rick Scott appears to support Curbelo's immigration plan, but how would he vote?

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

Gov. Rick Scott appears to be on board with Rep. Carlos Curbelo's plan to bypass House Speaker Paul Ryan to force a slew of immigration votes, putting the Republican running for Bill Nelson's U.S. Senate seat in line with Democrats and a small group of moderate Republicans.

But while Scott offered support for Curbelo's idea to force action, it isn't clear what types of immigration policies he would champion in the U.S. Senate if elected.

"We need to secure our borders and help these kids. Congress needs to get DACA legislation done. Thanks Congressman Curbelo for fighting for this," Scott tweeted on Thursday night.

Scott's campaign confirmed that he supports the Miami Republican's effort to force votes in Congress but did not offer an endorsement for specific immigration-related bills.

Scott has said in the past that he doesn't support deporting 1.8 million immigrants who came to the United States illegally as young children, a position that most Republicans and President Donald Trump share.

Scott has also demanded that Congress pass legislation that protects the young immigrants from deportation while securing the border, a wide-ranging policy position that could include a bill promoted by Donald Trump that failed to garner 40 votes in the U.S. Senate earlier this year and a bipartisan proposal called the USA Act that provides a pathway to citizenship for the young immigrants while also providing funding for a "smart wall" at the U.S.-Mexico border.

It's not clear where Scott stands on four immigration-related bills that failed in the U.S. Senate earlier this year. Two bipartisan compromises received a simple majority but failed to clear the required 60-vote hurdle after a majority of Republicans voted against them, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. The bill promoted by the White House, which provided a path to citizenship in exchange for border security funding and cuts to legal immigration, received 39 votes in the Senate.

Nelson voted in favor of the two bipartisan compromise bills and voted against the Trump-sponsored bill.

Read more here.