January 12, 2018

A Miami Republican was there, but won’t say if Trump called Haiti a ‘shithole’ country

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

There were only seven lawmakers in the room when President Donald Trump reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries.” Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was one of them.

Did the Miami Republican hear the words himself? Did he challenge the president’s comment? He refuses to say, even after the lone Democrat in the room said Friday that Trump had “said hateful things, and he said them repeatedly.”

In a statement, Diaz-Balart merely confirmed that he was at the White House meeting on Thursday, but he did not back up Trump’s Twitter denial of the “shithole” comment, or the claim made by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who said Friday that Trump had said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

“For months, I have been involved in numerous high level bipartisan meetings negotiating DACA, including Thursday’s meeting at the White House,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement. “There are almost 800,000 young DACA beneficiaries who will face imminent deportation in March if we do not reach a deal. I will not be diverted from all possible efforts to continue negotiating to stop the deportations. Nothing will divert my focus to stop the deportation of these innocent people whose futures are at stake.”

Diaz-Balart left Washington, D.C., on Thursday after his meeting with Trump. A Miami Herald reporter unsuccessfully attempted on Friday to find Diaz-Balart at his office in Doral, located across the street from the Trump Doral resort.

Trump’s reported comments caused an uproar in Miami, home to the nation’s largest concentration of Haitian Americans.

“The president calling Haiti a ‘shithole country’ ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our SoFla community and nation,” Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. “Language like that shouldn't be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn't be heard in the White House.”

After the White House initially did not deny the “shithole” comment, which was first reported by the Washington Post, Trump took to Twitter on Friday morning to offer his version of events.

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump tweeted. “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made — a big setback for DACA!”

Read more here.

January 09, 2018

Diaz-Balart calls White House immigration talk 'one of the most productive meetings I've been to'

Mario Diaz-Balart (1)


Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was happy with a high-stakes immigration meeting at the White House on Tuesday where President Donald Trump's negotiating skills were displayed on live television.  

Despite the media saturation, the Miami Republican said the meeting with about two dozen Democrats and Republicans was "one of the most productive meetings I've been to" as Congress tries to find a solution to help undocumented young adults known as Dreamers who came to the U.S. as young children.

"We've been discussing these issues for a long, long time and this is one of the most productive meetings I've been to," Diaz-Balart said. "Particularly when you're talking about a large group like that, diverse and everything else. I think the president set the tone and I think it was exceedingly productive." 

Diaz-Balart said the conversation in real-time with the cameras running made lawmakers from both sides explain what they meant when using terms like "clean" and "border security." 

"One of the things that I have learned over the years is that there are certain terms that when people say them they're thinking of something, and who you are talking to is thinking of a totally different thing which is why i just don't use them," Diaz-Balart said, referring to terms like "clean," "comprehensive" and "amnesty." 

He said the exchange between Trump and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, where the President initially appeared to back a solution for Dreamers without a promise for border security, was evidence of the productivity of Tuesday's meeting. 

"When the president thinks of DACA, he's thinking of DACA and border security," Diaz-Balart said. "It was good that Sen. Feinstein said 'What are we talking about here? Her version of 'clean' and his version of 'clean' are two different things and it was clarified and that was important. But it was a very, very, very positive atmosphere."

Diaz-Balart said four items, and only four, will be part of any immigration deal between Democrats and Republicans that must pass by March when the Obama-era executive order called DACA that protects Dreamers expires. 

"That's DACA...border security, chain migration and the diversity visa lottery," Diaz-Balart said. "Some want more issues, others want less, but that's what the group agreed to." 

Diaz-Balart, who unsuccessfully pushed a massive immigration overhaul bill in 2014, is part of House Speaker Paul Ryan's immigration working group and was the only Floridian present at Tuesday's meeting. 

Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen voted against a year-end spending bill in December because it did not address Dreamers. Diaz-Balart, who is generally the most conservative Miami Republican in the House of Representatives, voted in favor of the spending plan. 

January 05, 2018

A year after obeying Trump on immigration, Miami-Dade still waiting for a windfall

Sessions and gimenez


When Attorney General Jeff Sessions flew to Miami in August, he promised “more money for crime fighting” as a reward for Miami-Dade dropping “sanctuary” protections from immigration violators at county jails.

But after nearly a year as one of President Donald Trump’s most lauded counties, Miami-Dade is still waiting for its federal windfall. Mayor Carlos Gimenez cited billions in rail funds Miami-Dade hoped to secure from Washington in defending the county’s immigration switch days after Trump took office. But when Trump’s transportation secretary visited Miami last fall, she offered help on permitting issues but noted: “Resources are an issue.”

Chicago is suing the Trump administration over Trump’s funding threats for sanctuary jurisdictions, but the Windy City received the same $3 million police grant from the Justice Department that Miami-Dade did in November. Before Trump became president, both jurisdictions rejected federal requests to detain people who were booked on local charges while being sought for deportation. Chicago still doesn’t, but Miami-Dade started honoring the “detainer” requests last January.

When Sessions came to Miami to cheer the county’s accepting federal requests to detain immigration offenders, the attorney general formally announced what Justice had told the county in a letter two weeks earlier: the switch on “detainers” meant the county was eligible to continue receiving help from the Byrne Grant program for local police agencies. Figures released this week by Miami-Dade’s budget office showed the county received about $700,000 in Byrne dollars last year — enough to fund the $680 million police budget for about eight hours.

“The underlying arguments were not correct,” said Melissa Taveras, spokeswoman for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a Miami-based advocacy group that opposed Gimenez’s policy change. “What we’re doing is creating more fear among our immigrant community.”

Read more here.

January 03, 2018

Sanctuary no more: Feds seize 1 immigration detainee per day from Miami-Dade jails

Donald trump 2


Miami-Dade jails turned over an average of one immigration detainee per day to federal authorities during 2017, a pace set by the county’s controversial decision to comply with President Donald Trump’s crackdown on people being sought for deportation.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered county jails to comply with the federal detention requests days after Trump took office on Jan. 20 and promised to withhold federal funds from local governments providing “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants. Miami-Dade had previously declined the requests under a county policy enacted four years earlier.

Gimenez’s directive brought instant praise from Trump himself on Twitter, but from elsewhere, accusations that Miami-Dade was abandoning its tradition as one of the most welcoming cities in the country for immigrants.

Since Gimenez’s Jan. 26 policy change, Miami-Dade jails have turned over 436 people — a little more than one person a day on average — to agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a year-end tally by the county released Tuesday. Federal “detainer” requests ask jails to hold suspected immigration offenders for an additional 48 hours after they have been booked on unrelated local charges. A detainer kicks in once the person would otherwise be free to leave the local jail, either through posting bail, being released until trial or after serving a sentence.

Local charges that landed undocumented people on the federal deportation track include a mix of serious crimes and minor offenses, according to a summary by Miami-Dade’s Corrections and Rehabilitation Department.

More than 100 detainees are listed as being arrested for violent crimes, from simple battery to kidnapping and attempted murder. A sampling of other offenses: about 30 who were in custody for driving without a valid driver’s license; about three dozen people charged with drug possession; two people charged with loitering; and seven, with misdemeanors related to drinking in public.

“It’s made people go back into the shadows,” said Rebeca Sanchez-Roig, a Miami immigration lawyer who said she sees clients far more fearful of county and city police. “Very often they won’t report a crime or violence, because they’re afraid they will be turned into Immigration. We have endangered communities with this policy.”

Read more here.

December 12, 2017

Curbelo calls on Congress to find a Dreamer solution this week

Curbelo (1)


Congress has less than three days to find a solution for Dreamers in order for it to become law by the end of the year, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said on Tuesday. 

But Curbelo is hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can find a compromise for the 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents who face uncertainly after President Donald Trump said he will cancel an Obama-era executive order known as DACA that allowed Dreamers to be protected from deportation.

"We had very good meetings last night, three meetings," Curbelo said. "For the first time a lot of the like-minded Republicans and Democrats who want to get to yes got together. We're getting closer to filing a compromise, which has been my frustration. There's an obvious compromise out there, DACA fix and border security, but no one has proffered that compromise." 

If both parties can find a compromise, then a spending bill that funds the government known as a continuing resolution is the likely legislative vehicle that can include a solution for Dreamers. It is expected that a continuing resolution will get a vote sometime next week before a December 22nd deadline. 

"If they (leadership) want to give us a standalone vote, that's fine, it'll pass. I know it will," Curbelo said. "The most obvious vehicle is whatever continuing resolution is with a budget cap with new bipartisan numbers. We're getting closer and a lot of people have put aside partisan differences we've had in recent weeks to focus on trying to have something next week to take a run at this before the end of the year."

If congressional leaders fail to find a compromise in an end of the year spending bill, Curbelo said he will vote against the legislation that keeps the government running. Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she will do the same. 

"I'm not going to back down from that commitment," Curbelo said. "If I get maybe a time-certain commitment from leadership that there will be a vote, maybe I would think about saying 'Okay, that's good enough.' But I doubt I would get that clarity." 

Curbelo said that if the year-end spending bill doesn't include a Dreamer solution, the next opportunity will likely be in January when Congress takes up another spending bill. 

Congress has just under three months to find a solution for Dreamers before the DACA order officially ends on March 5. 

December 05, 2017

As Dreamers protested outside Marco Rubio’s office, a U.S. Border Patrol truck showed up

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via @moniqueomadan

As immigrant advocacy groups rallied outside Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s offices in Doral Monday, protesters say a U.S. Customs and Border Protection truck circled around the group.

“@ICEgov just sent a truck to intimidate the dreamers fasting outside of the offices of Senator @marcorubio and Congressman @MarioDB. #CleanDreamAct #DreamActNow,” posted Florida Immigrant Coalition’s Tomas Kennedy.

The protest was organized to demand the protection for Dreamers, those who were brought by their families to the United States as children even though they were undocumented immigrants.

Many of those participating— some elderly — launched a week-long hunger strike Friday, urging local politicians to fight the Trump administration’s repeal of the country’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

TPS is a program that protects foreign nationals — Hondurans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and Haitians — from being deported to their homelands amid instability and perilous conditions caused by armed conflict or natural disasters. The Obama-era DACA programs has allowed those who entered the U.S. illegally as minors to be protected from immediate deportation.

Read more here.

November 28, 2017

This Miami Republican won’t vote for spending bill unless Dreamers are protected

0445 IMPAC Immigration Summ

@newsbysmiley @alextdaugherty

Congress faces a Dec. 8 deadline to fund the federal government, and Republican leaders are usually reliant on Democratic support to pass federal spending proposals that rankle deficit-conscious conservatives.

As the deadline approaches, Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Republican who usually supports House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Tuesday he won’t support any funding legislation unless there’s a deal to help undocumented young adults who came to the U.S. as young children. If enough Republicans follow Curbelo’s path, Ryan could be forced to find a solution in order to keep the government running.

“House leadership knows it is a major priority for me to get this done before the end of the year,” Curbelo said in an interview. “I know that we have until March [before an Obama-era executive order expires], but there’s no sense in waiting that long.”

Curbelo has faced criticism from Democrats for not signing onto the Dream Act, a legislative solution to the Obama order that protects Dreamers from deportation. Instead, Curbelo is pushing his own bill called the Recognizing America’s Children Act, which he touts as a more conservative version of the Dream Act. Curbelo has said he will support any legislation that helps Dreamers if it comes to the floor for a vote even if it isn’t his bill.

President Donald Trump said he will not renew the Obama-era executive order, known as DACA, which will end in March 2018.

It is possible that congressional leaders will propose a short-term spending bill to keep the government running through Christmas, which gives Democrats and Republicans more time to hash out a final plan. Curbelo said his position on first helping some 800,000 young immigrants applies specifically to “any appropriations bill that funds the government beyond Dec. 31.”

Read more here. 

November 13, 2017

A new bill would allow all TPS recipients to apply for permanent residency



As the Trump administration weighs whether or not to end the Temporary Protected Status for thousands of Haitians and Salvadorans, three members of Congress are preparing legislation that would allow every TPS recipient to apply for permanent residency.

The bill, dubbed the ASPIRE Act, would let every person covered by TPS before Jan. 1, 2017, apply for permanent residency by proving before a judge that they would face extreme hardship if forced to return home.

“The Temporary Protected Status program was created with bipartisan support to protect human life,” said Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., who plans to introduce the legislation with Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Washington Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal. “It advances American interests and values and we must work in a bipartisan manner to do the right thing and protect hardworking immigrants from being sent back to countries where their physical well being could be cast into doubt.”

The bill also creates a new form of “protected status” for TPS recipients who have been in the the U.S. for at least five years. Instead of waiting for renewal or revocation of their status every 18 months, current TPS recipients would be able to stay in the U.S. for a renewable six-year period, though they would not be eligible for permanent residency if they cannot prove extreme hardship.

Clarke’s proposal is more expansive than a bill sponsored by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo that would provide a path to permanent residency for TPS recipients from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras who arrived in the U.S. before Jan. 13, 2011. Ros-Lehtinen and Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart have signed on to Curbelo’s bill.

The ASPIRE Act would also correct what Clarke’s office calls an “error” in existing law that requires TPS recipients who arrived in the U.S. illegally to leave the U.S. and reenter to adjust their status. Instead, a TPS designation would be enough of a reason to apply for permanent residency without having to leave the country.

Read more here.

November 09, 2017

More than a dozen Republicans demand a legislative solution for Dreamers

105Daca06 NEW PPP


In a show of force to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican leadership, more than a dozen Republicans from around the country are demanding a legislative solution by the end of 2017 for 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

There is less than four months left for Congress to find a solution for the young immigrants known as Dreamers before President Donald Trump will cancel an Obama-era executive order known as DACA that allowed Dreamers to be protected from deportation.

The 13 Republicans who gathered on Thursday want to vote on a bill now.

“The reality is that these young people with DACA status are already being harmed today,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., noting that over 22,000 DACA recipients missed an October deadline to renew their status and could be fired from their jobs immediately. “Everyday that Congress fails to act, every time that Congress kicks this can down the road, people, real people, are hurt.”

The group, which included conservative Texas Rep. Joe Barton along with moderate Miami Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, wasn’t the typical cast of characters at an immigration news conference on Capitol Hill.

While Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo are well-versed on immigration issues and delivered their talking points in English and Spanish, other members at the news conference on Capitol Hill tripped up when reciting details about DACA recipients. Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello referred to DACA recipients as “those who were born here” before being corrected by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The pro-Dreamer Republicans also included those who are trying to hold on to their seats in the face of well-funded Democratic challengers ahead of the 2018 elections. Issa ranks as the most vulnerable House incumbent in a recent analysis by Roll Call, while New York Rep. John Faso, who also spoke at the press conference, ranks third on Roll Call’s list.

But the Miami Republicans will need every possible Republican on board, even if their support is driven by political calculations, to convince Ryan to put a bill on the floor. Certain conservative Republican members are poised to vote against any proposal that expands immigration protections, but multiple Republicans at the press conference said that a legislative solution for Dreamers would easily garner over 300 votes in the 435 member House of Representatives.

Read more here.

November 08, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen: Fellow Republicans don’t care about finding a permanent TPS solution



Over 200,000 Haitians and Salvadorans could be forced to leave the United States if the Trump administration ends Temporary Protected Status for the two countries, and Democrats along with Miami Republicans in Congress are pushing for a permanent solution.

But Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen isn’t convinced that most of her fellow Republicans care.

The outgoing Miami congresswoman said Tuesday that the majority of Congress “would not know what TPS is” if asked about it and that there isn’t an appetite from Republicans to give TPS recipients a path to permanent residency.

“I spoke yesterday about TPS, had hardly anyone ask me about it. I spoke again today about TPS, radio silence from my colleagues,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “There’s just no interest for immigration reform generally, and I don’t think there’s much appetite to help these two particular groups of people. It hurts to say it but it’s the political reality.”

Ros-Lehtinen and the entire Miami delegation in Congress — Democrats and Republicans — are united behind a bill by Rep. Carlos Curbelo that would allow Haitians, Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans who receive TPS to obtain a path to permanent residency.

The Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday that TPS will expire in 2019 for Nicaraguans, while Hondurans will get a six-month extension until July 2018. The Trump administration has not yet announced a determination for Haitians and Salvadorans.

“While I’m disappointed in the administration’s announcement, these continued short-term extensions have created anxiety and uncertainty not only for these immigrants and their families, but also for their employers and neighbors whose prosperity also depends on them,” Curbelo said in a statement. “Congress has an opportunity to change that, and I’m grateful the Administration has called for a permanent solution from Congress.”

But finding a permanent solution will be a political challenge for House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Miami Republicans. Conservative Republicans have railed against any attempt to expand immigration, and the March 2018 deadline for Congress to find a legislative solution for young people known as Dreamers, who came to the country with their parents illegally as children, looms ahead of Nicaragua’s January 2019 TPS elimination or Honduras’ possible elimination in July 2018.

Read more here.