February 25, 2015

Obama's torturous routine: defending immigration record on Spanish-language TV

@PatriciaMazzei

For President Barack Obama, it has become a torturous routine — appearing on Spanish-language television to try to defend his record on reshaping the nation’s immigration laws.

On each occasion, he has been reminded that he broke his 2008 campaign promise to reform the system and that his administration is on track to deport more people than any other president in U.S. history.

Yet he will go at it again Wednesday in Miami, a majority Hispanic city in America’s largest swing state, this time in an attempt to reassure people in the country illegally that his latest executive action, which would shield up to five million people from deportation, stands on strong legal footing. A federal judge in Texas temporarily suspended the order last week, ruling that the president had overstepped his power. The Justice Department has appealed.

“My administration will fight this ruling with every tool at our disposal, and I have full confidence that these actions will ultimately be upheld,” Obama wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday by The Hill.

The president is expected to take questions Wednesday directly from undocumented immigrants at the taping of an event at Florida International University that will later air nationally on Miami-based Telemundo and sister network MSNBC. He will also likely address the Homeland Security Department budget, which is pending in Congress amid a political fight over funding Obama’s executive immigration actions. A Friday deadline looms.

More here.

February 24, 2015

White House invites GOP congressman to Miami immigration event, but denies him Air Force One seat

@PatriciaMazzei

The White House invited Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo to President Obama's immigration event Wednesday at Florida International University, which is in Curbelo's district. But the congressman apparently won't be able to make it.

Curbelo said that, after receiving the emailed invitation Monday night, he tried to rearrange his travel plans from Washington D.C., where Congress is in session, to attend. Able to find only early-morning flights that would require missing a full day of votes, Curbelo said he inquired about hitching a ride with Obama on Air Force One, which is scheduled to leave D.C. around noon. For example, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens -- a Democrat -- will be traveling with the president.

"They said, 'Sorry, there's no space on the plane for you,'" Curbelo said late Tuesday when asked by the Miami Herald whether he would be at the event hosted by Telemundo and MSNBC. The White House couldn't be reached for comment.

Characterizing it as a potential "political risk" to appear at an Obama event, Curbelo said he still would like to hear the president discuss immigration. Obama shares common ground -- at least policy-wise -- on the issue with Miami's three Cuban-American Republicans in Congress, who support comprehensive immigration reform but legislated by Congress and not carried out by executive orders.

Instead, it looks like Curbelo will be staying in the frigid Capitol.

"I guess everyone is trying to make it to Miami in winter," he said.

This post has been updated.

In New Hampshire, Marco Rubio pressed on immigration

From the Associated Press:

HOLLIS, N.H. (AP) - Back in New Hampshire for the first time since the midterm elections, it didn't take long for Sen. Marco Rubio to get a question about immigration.

Speaking to a group of people in a wooden barn in the southern part of the state, the Florida Republican - still debating whether to run for president or seek re-election to the Senate in 2016 - was asked about his past support for immigration legislation that includes a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants living in the country illegally. Rubio's aides said the crowd was "more than 100."

"When I first heard you, I liked you a lot - and then you lost me," a questioner asked Rubio, to some applause from the crowd. "But I'm back, here to give you another chance. My question for you is, 'Can you commit if elected president to send home every single person that's violated our country's laws and is here illegally?'"

In reply, Rubio didn't hesitate.

"I don't think anyone can commit that to you," Rubio said. "You have 12 million human beings in America, most of whom we don't even know who they are and some of them whom our country's not going to tolerate rounding up and sending back. That's not a realistic proposal."

Read the full story here. Watch video of Rubio's Hollis speech here, via WMUR.

February 23, 2015

Mario Diaz-Balart warns Miami-Dade may have to make unpopular choices to fund transportation

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has a powerful new budget post in Congress, but don't expect federal dollars to start pouring in for local transportation projects.

There's not that much money to work with, the Republican told the Miami Herald's editorial board Monday. And Miami-Dade County must first draft detailed plans to extend public transit -- and find a way to pay for part of them on its own.

"There's not much we can do until the community gets its act together -- the local government, local governments, get their act together," said Diaz-Balart, the new chairman of the House transportation and housing appropriations subcommittee. "The key is to have a plan that is real. It's going to require a local match."

Interest in improving the county's disjointed transportation system has grown among politicians, with Miami-Dade's new commission chairman, Jean Monestime, citing it as a priority for his two-year term that begun last month. Commissioner Esteban "Steve" Bovo, the new transit committee chairman, has already met with Diaz-Balart to discuss a way forward.

That will involve picking only a few projects that have enough potential ridership to back them, Diaz-Balart said -- which could mean making unpopular political choices. Metrorail lines have long been promised to different areas of the county, regardless of whether they would draw sufficient customers.

"We can't do everything. We can't fund everything," Diaz-Balart said, echoing Bovo's stated approach. "If the ridership isn't there, those days of just empty promises -- which, by the way, don't do anything other than just that -- have to be over."

February 20, 2015

Obama to visit FIU for immigration town hall

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama will visit Miami next Wednesday to attend an immigration town-hall style meeting at Florida International University's main campus.

The nationally televised event, hosted by Miami-based Telemundo and MSNBC anchor José Díaz-Balart, will be in English and Spanish, according to MSNBC. His brother Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, has pushed Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

"We've chosen this town hall forum because the president has a desire to engage in a genuine conversation about issues important to the community," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the network. Miami "makes for an interesting, dynamic place and a great symbol of how immigration has made our country unique."

February 18, 2015

UPDATED In Vegas, Rubio says Senate should fund Homeland Security

@PatriciaMazzei

Republicans in Congress want to strip funding for President Obama's contested executive immigration actions before passing a budget for the Department of Homeland Security. But U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday that the Senate shouldn't shut down the department just to pass the anti-immigration provisions. The funding deadline is Feb. 27.

Rubio said the GOP-controlled Senate doesn't have the votes to override a certain Obama veto of any legislation tying Homeland Security funding to the immigration actions, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The Florida Republican was in Nevada promoting his new policy book, American Dreams.

"We have to fund Homeland Security," Rubio said in a news conference, according to CNN. "Look, I'm in favor of any measure that has a chance of succeeding that could stop the new order, but the truth of the matter is the president's not going to sign that and we don't have the votes to pass it in the Senate. We can't let Homeland Security shut down."

Like in a prior book-tour stop in Iowa, he faced immigration activists who challenged him on his position. Rubio shepherded a comprehensive immigration-overhaul bill that passed in the Senate in 2013 but has since said only a piecemeal approach would pass Congress. He has also opposed the president's unilateral actions, saying the system should be changed by lawmakers.

UPDATE: After the Las Vegas report about Rubio's remarks, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant clarified that Rubio does not support stripping Republican senators' legislation of the anti-immigration provisions.

Senator Rubio does not support shutting down DHS. But he does support stopping the new executive order on immigration and is willing to support any approach we could get passed to stop it. But the President had made clear he will veto any effort to stop his unconstitutional order. And Senate Democrats have made clear they will not even end there filibuster on the DHS funding bill. The result will be a DHS shutdown which would be harmful to our national security. The answer is not for Republicans to surrender and pass a clean funding bill. The answer is for the President and Senate Democrats to abandon the executive order and cooperate in passing a series of immigration bills beginning with real border security.

The headline of this post was updated in light of Conant's statement.

February 17, 2015

Jeb Bush's immigration position wins GOP donors' praise

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush was held up by top Republican donors today as one of the party’s best voices to champion immigration reform in the coming presidential election.

Both Mike Fernandez, a major GOP donor in Florida, and Spencer Zwick, who national finance chairman of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, singled out Bush during a conference call this afternoon.

“Certainly Gov. Bush has decided to lead on this issue,” Zwick said, adding any candidate needs to clearly say where they are on the issue and not try to say the “most outrageous thing so that they can make national news.”

“We have to have someone who is willing to take on this issue,” he said. “We have to nominate a candidate who is willing to let action be stronger than inaction. Because as Republicans, we’ve let inaction be our model for too long."

The call was arranged by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a Republican group that has tried to push for reform. At the outset Fernandez talked about his own immigrant story, arriving from Cuba in 1965.

“Had you met me back then you would have seen me cleaning animal cages at a hospital,” the billionaire healthcare CEO said. “I could have easily been confused with one of the 11 million undocumented residents we have in this country today.

He said the booming Hispanic population in the U.S. is a “game changer” and that it would be unwise for Republicans not to embrace the community. “We need to welcome these individuals. These individuals are risk takers. They did not come here for anything else other than improving their lives and we need them in order to improve our economy.”

GOP donors and leaders such as Grover Norquist, who was also on the call, have long called for immigration reform.

But those calls stand against a conservative base that has demanded a hardline position that forced Romney to talk about self deportation and figures such as Sen. Marco Rubio to move off calls for a comprehensive approach.

'That's not leadership,' Jeb Bush says of Obama's executive action on immigration

@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush took to Facebook Tuesday to criticize President Obama's executive action on immigration last year, following the ruling by a federal judge in Texas late Monday temporarily blocking Obama's move.

"Last year, the president overstepped his executive authority and, in turn, hurt the effort toward a commonsense immigration solution," Bush wrote. "That's not leadership. The millions of families affected across the country deserve better.

"Now, more than ever, we need President Obama to work with Congress to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system."

Bush's support of an immigration overhaul -- he co-authored a book about it, Immigration Wars -- doesn't sit well with some of the GOP's conservative grassroots. By calling out Obama for the way he has gone about letting millions of immigrants in the country illegally stay, Bush has found a way to oppose the president, at least when it comes to process.

Proponents of immigration reform have noted that Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, allowed 1.5 million unauthorized immigrants to stay in the U.S. with a 1990 executive action. That's far fewer than the nearly 5 million people affected by Obama's latest action.

Obama first allowed immigrants brought illegally as children to remain in the country. That original policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was unaffected by Monday's ruling in Texas. 

But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Tuesday that the department won't begin to accept DACA extensions tomorrow, as planned, and won't be accepting applications for the new policy, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA. 

The Justice Department plans to appeal the Texas decision, which resulted from a lawsuit filed by a coalition of 26 states, including Florida.

February 06, 2015

Rush Limbaugh's claim about illegal immigrants and measles

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh says the focus on vaccinations in the wake of the measles outbreak is a "leftist Democratic trick" to divert attention from the president’s "DOA" budget plan.

And to the extent that the measles outbreak is real, Limbaugh said Feb. 3, 2015, it was all the fault of the White House anyway.

"We have a vaccination problem for one reason: Barack Hussein Obama and his open borders immigration policy, which opened the southern borders to children sick, healthy, you name it, poor, ill-educated, just tens of thousands of kids flooded the southern border all of last year.

"They were never examined before they got here. They were never examined after they got here and quarantined if they had a disease. They were just sent out across the country. Many of them had measles."  

Other conservative voices have linked measles to illegal immigrants. The conservative website The Blaze wrote about Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who said the disease was brought into the country by "illegal aliens."

The common thread in these statements is the idea that these children were never examined, that they had measles, and Washington took no precautions before allowing them to stay. Turn to Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PunditFact and see some of the other falsehoods PolitiFact has dissected about immigration.

January 29, 2015

Carlos Curbelo backs immigration reform but could support House immigration lawsuit against Obama

@PatriciaMazzei

House Speaker John Boehner's move toward suing President Obama over his executive immigration action could put Miami Republican members of Congress in a tough spot. They generally support the policies pushed by the president but oppose how he went about them. So would they back a House lawsuit?

Maybe, freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

Freshman Republican Carlos Curbelo of Florida, one of a handful of supporters of comprehensive immigration reform in the Republican caucus, told The Daily Beast that while he would have to see the lawsuit, that "if it's very specific in seeking to hold the Obama Administration for violating the Constitution, I could support it." In his opinion, it needed to be "a question of the Constitution not of the policy goals advanced through the actions." But, while Curbelo noted the lawsuit was not "unimportant," he was more concerned about "an ultimate solution…a series of bills that will address all of our immigration challenges."

However, Curbelo had strongly favored a lawsuit during his campaign last year. When a Spanish-language radio host asked in August if Obama should be impeached over his immigration action, Curbelo suggested suing instead.

"What they should do is sue him, as they have done in other cases, with Obamacare," Curbelo told a WAQI-AM (710) Radio Mambí host known as Lourdes D'Kendall. "If the president exceeds himself, exceeds his authority, they should take him to the Supreme Court. And I'm very sure -- I trust -- that the court won't let us down and will rule in favor of the Constitution. We cannot let this country be ruled by decree. 

"That would even be my position if it were a Republican president pushing a policy I agreed with," Curbelo continued. "We need to honor the Constitution and this country's institutions."

Listen to audio of that campaign interview here, in Spanish, after the two-minute mark.