April 01, 2015

Senate reverses itself on immigration lawsuit

The Florida Senate voted Wednesday to block Attorney General Pam Bondi from challenging President Obama's executive action on immigration.

And then it changed its mind.

The change of heart happened during a discussion of the proposed $80.4 billion state budget.

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, asked to include language prohibiting state money from being used to join a Texas lawsuit against Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program grants temporary deportation relief to undocumented young adults who arrived in the United States as children.

Soto noted that last year, the Senate passed legislation allowing students who are undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities.

"Most of these kids are only here because of this program and they face imminent deportation if it is undermined," Soto said. "This year, we should continue to make a statement our state dollars should not be paid to undermine a policy that we support."

The Senate voted 16-15 to adopt the amendment.

But a few minutes later, Sen. Jack Latvala called for the amendment to be reconsidered.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who sponsored the immigrant tuition bill last year, said he had voted for the amendment by accident.

"I momentarily sympathized with [Soto] because I do sympathize with his feelings on that issue," he said.

But Latvala said it is Senate custom for the the leaders of budget subcommittees to support the budget chairman. And Budget Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, opposed the amendment.

"It is a very dangerous, slippery slope that we get on when we start telling our cabinet, particularly our attorney general, where she can weigh in and what resources she can use to do it," Lee said.

When it came time to vote for a second time, the amendment failed on a voice vote.

March 06, 2015

Marco Rubio's claim about immigration and 'insecure' borders

Sen. Marco Rubio said he’s learned some lessons from his first failed foray into the immigration policy game.

"What I’ve learned, is you can’t even have a conversation about that until people believe and know — not just believe, but it’s proven to them — that future illegal immigration will controlled," Rubio said. "That is the single biggest lesson of the last two years."

A big piece of that, Rubio said, is border security, and he gave this stat: "There are at least three sectors of the border, one in particular, that are just completely insecure."

The southwest border spans from San Diego to the southern tip of Texas, and it is broken into nine sectors. Are at least three of those sectors "completely insecure"? Read Steve Contorno's fact-check from PolitiFact.

February 25, 2015

Immigration reform will happen, Obama says in Miami: 'There will be a President Rodriguez'

@PatriciaMazzei

Likening immigration reform to the great civil-rights movements in U.S. history, President Barack Obama vowed during a brief visit to Miami on Wednesday to veto any legislation undoing his executive order protecting from deportation up to 5 million people who are in the country illegally.

“In the short term, if Mr. [Mitch] McConnell, the leader of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, want to have a vote on whether what I’m doing is legal or not, they can have that vote,” Obama said, almost daring congressional leaders to challenge him. “I will veto that vote, because I’m absolutely confident that what we’re doing is the right thing to do.”

His veto threat was met with rousing applause from the friendly audience assembled at Florida International University, where Obama taped an hour-long town hall-style meeting hosted by Miami-based Telemundo and sister network MSNBC. The event, moderated by bilingual anchor José Díaz-Balart, was later nationally televised on both networks.

McConnell, of Kentucky, wants a stand-alone bill blocking Obama’s 2014 actions, which were supposed to take effect this week but have been stalled by a Texas federal judge. Boehner, of Ohio, is waiting for the Senate’s move, after House Republicans passed a budget for the Homeland Security Department that wouldn’t pay for the president’s plan.

More here.

As Obama visits Miami for immigration town hall, a look back at fact-checks about border security, deportations

President Barack Obama will defend his record on immigration at a town hall at Florida International University today.

The event starts at 3 p.m. and it will air at 7 p.m. on Telemundo and at 8 p.m. on MSNBC.

PolitiFact has fact-checked several claims related to Obama and immigration. Here are a few examples:

A few days before he announced his executive action in November, Obama was asked why he suddenly felt he could use executive action to address immigration issues. Obama said, "My position hasn’t changed." But it had.

Obama spoke several times in recent years about what actions he was able to undertake on immigration. At one point he said, "I am president, I am not king." Later he stated, "I’m not the emperor of the United States."

He may be neither of those things, but he did take sweeping action on immigration in the face of opposition from the Republican-controlled House. So we rated his claim that he hadn’t changed position False.

We also fact-checked Obama’s claim that “the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s.”

In 2013, about 420,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended at the border. The last time it was lower than that was 1972. However, in the 1970s, it was easier for people to make multiple attempts or excursions illegally across the border, undermining the quality of the historical comparison. We rated this claim Half True.

We also checked the claim by José Díaz-Balart, a host of today’s event in Miami and a Telemundo news anchor and MSNBC host.

"Every single day in this country, 1,000 people are deported and the vast majority of those people that are deported aren't criminals."

In 2013, an average of 1,200 people per day were formally removed from the country. But non-criminal removals only slightly outnumbered the removals of those with criminal charges. We rated his claim Half True.

Hear a claim we should fact-check today about immigration? #PolitiFactThis or truthometer@politifact.com

FIU gets TV love before Obama visit

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida International University didn't organize Wednesday evening's immigration event with President Obama. But it's getting plenty of publicity out of it anyway.

Telemundo and MSNBC rented space (for nearly $39,000) at the Graham Center on FIU's main campus to host what the sister TV networks have billed as a town-hall style meeting with the president. The university considers it a private event.

Yet FIU appears to be reaping the benefits of lending its venue. José Díaz-Balart, the Telemundo MSNBC anchor moderating the bilingual discussion with Obama, hosted his morning show, The Rundown, from the event hall and repeatedly named the university. A promotional shot showed the university's campus. And President Mark Rosenberg gave a live interview in which he characterized his school as "the face of American in the next two decades."

"In a very real way, this FIU campus is a microcosm of American society," Díaz-Balart gushed.

On Telemundo's evening newscast Monday, Rosenberg, who is bilingual himself, said in Spanish that Obama's visit will be the first time a sitting president appears at FIU.

Díaz-Balart wrapped up his Rundown broadcast listing "5 Things" about FIU, including that it awards more degrees to Hispanics than any other university in the nation, that Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio teaches there, and that the law school is named after Díaz-Balart's late father, Rafael.

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."