March 18, 2016

South Florida Republicans break with GOP in deportation vote


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

March 10, 2016

Hillary Clinton attacked Bernie Sanders on immigration including amendment on Minutemen

Immigration policy was a big topic at the Univision-Washington Post Democratic presidential debate in Miami. On several occasions, Hillary Clinton took the opportunity to attack Bernie Sanders’ record on immigration.

At one point, she said, "In 2006, when Sen. Sanders was running for the Senate from Vermont, he voted in the House with hard-line Republicans for indefinite detention for undocumented immigrants, and then he sided with those Republicans to stand with vigilantes known as Minutemen who were taking up outposts along the border to hunt down immigrants."

She later repeated both parts of this charge.

Sanders took issue with Clinton’s statements during the debate. Responding to a question from moderator Jorge Ramos about whether he supported the Minutemen, Sanders said, "Of course not. There was a piece of legislation supported by dozens and dozens of members of the House which codified existing legislation. What the secretary is doing tonight and has done very often is take large pieces of legislation and take pieces out of it."

Many readers asked PolitiFact to take a closer look, so we did. See what we found here.

March 09, 2016

Facebook data shows what Floridians are talking about ahead of Miami Democratic debate

Conversation FLORIDA

It may come as no surprise, but Floridians -- at least the ones posting about politics on Facebook -- care a lot about Cuba and immigration.

Those are the top issues Floridians are talking about on the social-media site ahead of Wednesday's Democratic debate in Miami, according to data Facebook shared with the Miami Herald.

The other three leading topics of conversation? The size of government, government ethics, and homeland security and terrorism. Compare that to the chief issues nationally: religion, the economy, immigration, racial issues and taxes.

Facebook also compiled data on which candidates Facebookers were discussing, and how many "interactions" those candidates generated. Here, Florida mirrored the nation.

Between the Democrats, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in Facebook interactions. The Republican lineup, from most to least discussed: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich.

February 19, 2016

Marco Rubio now says he'd end Obama protection for young immigrants 'on my first day'

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio now says he would immediately end President Obama’s program shielding young immigrants from deportation.

"I will on my first day in office get rid of it because it's unconstitutional,” Rubio said on CNN Thursday.

The “first day” is notable.

Ted Cruz has attacked Rubio’s immigration position in part because Rubio used more wiggle room in an interview last year with Jorge Ramos of Univision. Then, Rubio said the program would end but he indicated it would not happen right away.

“The reason is that there are already people who have that permission, who are working, who are studying, and I don’t think it would be fair to cancel it suddenly," Rubio said, according to a translation of the interview conducted in Spanish. “But I do think it is going to have to end. And, God willing, it’s going to end because immigration reform is going to pass.”

CNN asked Rubio spokesman Alex Conant about the shift and said he played down the "first day" promise.

"He has always said that DACA is unconstitutional and that it needs to end," Conant said. "As President, he'd stop people signing up for the program immediately."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 17, 2016

February 12, 2016

Listen to Marco Rubio talk about immigration in 2002

via @learyreports

After telling audiences that he’s lived the immigration issue, Marco Rubio outlines a tough-on-security approach that raises the possibility of ISIS invading our homes and strikes this promise: “If we aren’t 100 percent sure who you are and why you’re coming to America, you’re not getting in.”

As he navigates the issue he’s most vulnerable to conservatives on, Rubio’s past keeps surfacing. During the last big terrorism scare — 9/11 — Florida got perhaps the earliest look at Rubio’s more moderate immigration views.

Lawmakers in Tallahassee rushed to make policy after the terrorist attacks. But Rubio expressed caution about going too far and in February 2002, he led an effort to defeat a bill that would have required state colleges and universities to provide law enforcement with information on about 58,000 student visa holders.

“I hope nobody here goes home tonight thinking that we’re Captain America and that we’re saving the world by filing this legislation,” Rubio said during a committee meeting. He doubted the bill would make the country safer and “in fact, it’s just a part of what appears to be a pattern of legislation after legislation that unfairly targets a group of people by vast and overwhelming majority, statistically speaking, is here to make their lives better and to contribute to the well-being of this country and not the other direction.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 04, 2016

Jeb Bush says Miami isn't the same kind of 'sanctuary city' as San Francisco


TILTON, N.H. -- Miami's two Republican presidential candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both get applause when they campaign against federal funding for so-called "sanctuary cities," where local law-enforcement agencies limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

But advocates consider their home county of Miami-Dade to be such a sanctuary. And legislation passed by the Florida House on Wednesday that would ban the practice would, by the House staff's own analysis, affect Miami-Dade.

Asked about the state legislation while campaigning in New Hampshire on Thursday, Bush, a former Florida governor, cautioned against painting all cities and counties with too wide a brush.

"Miami-Dade County's version of a sanctuary city may be different than the one that exists in San Francisco, where they released convicted felons into the community rather than apply federal law," Bush said. "I don't think Miami-Dade was doing that. So you've got to be careful about the conversation."

He reiterated, however, that it shouldn't be OK for a local police department to defy immigration law. (The way Miami-Dade's policy works is that the police department cooperates with the feds on some immigration cases, but does not detain people flagged as being in the country illegally indefinitely.)

"I don't think there should be a violation of federal law by local communities knowingly doing it," Bush said. "There should be some restrictions. The idea of restricting federal law-enforcement dollars for communities that violate federal law and endanger their communities is appropriate.

"I don't think Miami-Dade County does that, though."

January 15, 2016

Marco Rubio names 'desperate' Jeb Bush in 1 of 2 new TV ads on immigration


How damaging could his previous support for comprehensive immigration reform be for Marco Rubio?

The Florida senator released not one but two TV ads Friday defending his position -- and pushing back on Jeb Bush, whose allied super PAC has portrayed Rubio as an immigration flip-flopper.

"We all see what's happening: Jeb Bush is desperate and spending millions on false attacks," Rubio says in one of the ads. "Don't fall for it. When I'm president there will be no amnesty."

Both Rubio and his allied super PAC have appeared eager to counter the Bush camp's jabs, even though Bush is trailing Rubio in polls. Bush said in Thursday's debate that his rivals should be less concerned with what "wild and woolly" attack ads say.

"Everybody's record's going to be scrutinized, and at the end of the day, we need to be united behind the winner so we can defeat Hillary Clinton, because she is a disaster," he said.

Ted Cruz took Rubio to task on immigration Thursday, a few days after Rubio began talking on the campaign trail about how immigration is now a bigger national-security issue.

Rubio's campaign says both ads will air in Iowa.



The fiery Marco Rubio-Ted Cruz exchange buried at the end of Thursday's debate


One of Marco Rubio's strongest moments -- in terms of rhetoric, anyway -- in Thursday night's Republican presidential debate came in overtime.

Around 11 p.m., the usual end time for debates, Rubio got asked about immigration, one of his weak spots among GOP primary voters. He gave what has become his latest argument on the issue, that legal immigration must be reviewed in light of the ISIS terrorist group's latest attacks.

"The issue is a dramatically different issue than it was 24 months ago," contended Rubio, one of the sponsors of 2013 immigration-reform legislation in the U.S. Senate. "Twenty-four months ago, 36 months ago, you did not have a group of radical crazies named ISIS who were burning people in cages and recruiting people to enter our country legally."

Rubio rival Ted Cruz spied an opening and took it.

"Radical Islamic terrorism was not invented 24 months ago; 24 months ago, we had Al Qaida," he said. "We had Boko Haram. We had Hamas. We had Hezbollah. We had Iran putting operatives in South America and Central America."

Cruz had put Rubio on the defensive on an issue Rubio has struggled with for years -- and will apparently continue to wrangle with. But Rubio nevertheless came right back at him.

Continue reading "The fiery Marco Rubio-Ted Cruz exchange buried at the end of Thursday's debate" »