February 02, 2017

A 'sanctuary cities' bill is in the works for 2017 session



As President Donald Trump’s administration cracks down on so-called “sanctuary” cities for undocumented immigrants, some Republican lawmakers in Florida aim to do the same this year.

State Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, told the Herald/Times that he and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, are drafting legislation that will seek to impose “consequences” on cities and counties “who say there are only select, certain federal laws they’re going to abide by.”

“We’re looking at financial penalties, yes,” Bean said when asked if the consequences potentially included withholding state funding from cities and counties deemed “sanctuaries” for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

“We’re also looking at removing the umbrella of your sovereign immunity for elected individuals, boards and constitutional officers,” Bean said — which would allow victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to then sue city and county officials if they don’t fully comply with enforcing federal immigration laws.

More here.

Photo credit: Protesters gather at the Miami-Dade government center on Jan. 27, 2017, to protest against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to remove the county’s label as a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants in the country illegally. C.M. Guerrero / el Neuvo Herald


January 27, 2017

Anger erupts in Miami-Dade over mayor's decision to comply with Trump immigration order

SanctuaryFolo one mhd
@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

Political blowback erupted Friday against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for requiring local jails to detain immigrants in the country illegally at the behest of the federal government, effectively abandoning Miami-Dade’s stance as a “sanctuary” county.

Immigration advocates descended on County Hall, staging a protest — called on short notice — of more than 100 people that forced police officers to close off the lobby of the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami to keep the demonstrators out.

“Hey, Gimenez, shame on you!” Miami labor union organizer Kathy Bird Carvajal shouted into a megaphone. “You are an immigrant, too.”

Gimenez decided to comply with “detainer” requests Thursday, a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening to deny federal grants from cities and counties that didn’t fully cooperate with immigration authorities. Miami-Dade had stopped holding inmates flagged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as illegal in 2013.

At least one federal agency — the Justice Department — took that to mean Miami-Dade was a “sanctuary” county for undocumented immigrants, a designation the county has disputed though there is no legal definition for a sanctuary jurisdiction. Which federal grants might be affected by Trump’s order is also unclear.

Trump praised Gimenez’s swift action late Thursday on Twitter, calling it the “right decision.”

“Strong!” he wrote, bringing worldwide attention to Gimenez’s action.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, Miami Herald staff 

December 02, 2016

Latvala bristles at freshman senator's attempt to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants

via @JeffSolochek

Without mentioning any names, or even the issue at hand, Florida Sen. Jack Latvala took a clear swipe Thursday at a newly minted Senate colleague who filed legislation to undo a university tuition measure that Latvala worked hard to broker two years ago.

Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, proposed a bill Wednesday to void a law granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students who graduate from Florida high schools. Latvala initially had little to say about the proposal, which he hadn't yet read.

MORE: "In-state college tuition rates for Florida's undocumented students could be in danger"

A day later, in a room filled with school board members from across the state, Latvala let loose. He made his comments in response to the question of what might be his biggest non-financial challenge in the 2017 session.

That challenge, Latvala said, will be coming to grips with the largest freshman group of senators in memory — 20 in all, 17 of whom came from the Florida House with their own set of protocols and behaviors that differ from the more collegial Senate.

He paused, then continued to speak about "one of" the House transplants who, just a few days into the term decided to file a bill that would repeal all the hard work a longstanding senator — the Appropriations Committee chairman, no less — spent significant effort moving through the Legislature.

Latvala is the Appropriations chair.

"It gets your back up," he said. "The final chapter hasn't been played on that."

FSBA executive director Andrea Messina, who moderated the panel, playfully asked, "It wasn't Sen. (Dana) Young, was it?"

A grinning Young sat three seats away from Latvala, who responded quickly, "She wouldn't dare."

Sen. David Simmons, another Senate long-timer at the table, said he spent eight years in the House before coming to the upper chamber. The operating models of each differs greatly, he said, and it will take time for all to acclimate to one another.

But one thing is certain, Simmons said: Newcomers quickly learn that "the toe or foot you step on is attached to another part of the anatomy you might need to kiss" later on to get what you want.

The room burst into laughter. Steube was not present.

November 21, 2016

Florida Republicans to launch conservative coalition for immigration reform


A group of Florida Republicans including two who were critical of Donald Trump will launch a conservative coalition that will make an economic argument in favor of immigration reform.

Floridians for Immigration Solutions will hold their kickoff event at Hialeah City Hall at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“The effort is one of a dozen statewide conservative coalitions calling for a responsible solution to the country’s broken immigration system that secures the border, grows the economy, and recognizes that America cannot and should not engage in mass deportations of millions of productive members of society,” states a press release.

Trump made a series of immigration-related promises including that he would turn off the “jobs and benefits magnet” that attracts immigrants who come to the United States illegally. His  immigration plan also includes building a wall on the Mexican border, deporting criminals and ending Obama’s executive actions including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Trump has something in common with some Florida business owners: he has used H-2B visas to import temporary foreign workers at his Mar-A-Lago resort.

The coalition leaders include four Republican past or present politicians: Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, State Sen. René García, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan Zapata and former State Rep. J.C. Planas. The coalition also includes business leaders Julio Fuentes, CEO of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Mandy Llanes, chair of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce.

Planas backed libertarian Gary Johnson but said on election day he wrote in former Gov. Jeb Bush’s name. He said the coalition will make an economic case about the need for immigration reform.

“The message of this is immigrants are not just an important part of our country -- immigrants are an important part of the economy,” Planas told the Miami Herald. “For all Americans to prosper and for us to keep the economy growing we have to make any immigration solution be as positive for economy as possible. We cannot let any sort of xenophobic feelings cause us to harm the economic recovery of the country.”

Garcia criticized Trump after he said that a judge in the Trump University case couldn’t be fair because the judge was of Mexican descent and Trump wants to build a border wall.

"These demeaning words seek to divide the country among racial lines, and that is simply contrary to the American values that have made our country great,” Garcia said in June. “It is shameful that Mr. Trump is using his public profile to force pressure on a reputable member of the federal judiciary to affect the outcome of a private civil matter. Republican or Democrat, black or white, we must stand in solidarity and denounce these blatantly racist remarks."

Hernandez, who told the Miami Herald that he voted for Trump, said he wants a path to legal status for certain undocumented immigrants. He said he wants the Trump administration to pursue: "a path to securing our border, restructuring the U.S. immigration system in a manner that supports economic growth, discourages illegal immigration, and creates a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who are not a threat and are productive members of society."

The coalition is an initiative of the New American Economy, a bipartisan effort calling for immigration reform. The New American Economy is working toward having similar coalitions nationwide -- this is the first one in Florida.

“Our basic reason for being is to make the case of how immigration helps America and helps the economy,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the New American Economy. “We want diverse political voices. It’s no secret the Republicans control everything, that is the reason why we are lifting up conservative voices now.”


October 10, 2016

Murphy speaks Spanish in latest ad, hitting Rubio on immigration


Patrick Murphy is going after Marco Rubio on immigration reform -- with a twist. In his latest TV ad, Murphy speaks directly to viewers in Spanish.

"On immigration, Marco Rubio and I are different," Murphy says in the new 30-spot. "I worked with President Obama on this topic while Sen. Rubio changed position. Now, he opposes immigration reform. Worse, Rubio supports Donald Trump. His plan would deport 800,000 children, destroying families."

Murphy's past Spanish-language political commercials have featured narrators other than himself. That's because he doesn't speak the language. But Rubio does, and that presents a challenge for Murphy, who polls show is still unknown among significant numbers of Hispanic voters, especially Spanish-dominant ones. Some might be willing to vote for him -- outside of Cuban Americans, Florida's Hispanics lean Democratic -- but they don't know who he is, 29 days removed from the election.

Cutting ads in languages in which candidates aren't fluent is always a political risk. Some voters might frown on politicians speaking words they don't understand. But others could also appreciate the effort it takes to reach them in their own language.

Murphy hired Freddy Balsera, an experienced political strategist from Miami, a couple of weeks ago specifically to help him reach Hispanic voters. Balsera advised the Obama campaign in 2008; Obama has been known to cut an ad or two in Spanish himself, though like Murphy he doesn't speak the language.

By using the immigration issue, Murphy gets to introduce himself and attack Rubio at the same time. Rubio was a member of the Gang of Eight that passed an immigration-reform bill in the Senate but not in the House. He has since said a comprehensive approach wouldn't work and favored piecemeal immigration legislation instead.

Rubio's campaign accused Murphy of "lying."

"Murphy's last-ditch efforts to appeal to Hispanics won't confuse the voters who know Marco Rubio's record of service on behalf of the Hispanic community, spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said.

This post has been updated with the statement from Rubio's campaign.

September 21, 2016

PolitiFact's Obameter: A broken promise on path to citizenship

Obama Campaign 2016 ClintonphiliAP


In June, the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 over a Texas case related to President Barack Obama's efforts to help millions of illegal immigrants temporarily avoid deportation. That ruling and other events are stopping Obama from keeping his campaign promise on a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Obama's programs were intended to help certain people who came here as children and their parents. While it would not have provided a permanent lawful status to applicants, it would have made it easier for them to work and study here.

The decision was another blow to Obama's efforts to change immigration laws and promise to provide a path to citizenship.

We rated Obama's 2008 pledge as In the Works after the Senate unveiled an immigration bill in 2013 that included several hurdles for undocumented immigrants, including fines, background checks and a waiting period, before they could be on a path to citizenship. But the bill stalled in the House when leadership refused to bring it up for a vote.

Keep reading from PolitiFact's Obameter here.

Photo by the AP

September 01, 2016

PolitiFact: Donald Trump's immigration speech in Arizona


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump offered an aggressive 10-point plan Wednesday to crack down on illegal immigration, including the creation of a "deportation task force" and a pledge to crack down on people living here illegally who are arrested for crimes.

Trump reiterated his pledge to build a wall along the southern border -- with aerial and ground sensors -- and promised that Mexico would pay for construction. He said he’d create safe zone for refugees leaving Syria, and that the Gulf states would pay for them. And he vowed to reverse immigration policies in nearly two dozen countries that leave people scheduled to be deported stuck in America.

"Mexico will work with us. I absolutely believe it. And especially after meeting with their wonderful, wonderful president today, I really believe they want to solve this problem along with us, and I'm sure they will," Trump said in Phoenix.

PolitiFact is fact-checking several claims from Trump’s speech, some of which cover familiar territory. See what we have fact-checked so far.

August 31, 2016

Miami Beach man gets 10 years for running prostitution ring



A Miami Beach man was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison for running an escort service called "International Playmates" from a Fort Lauderdale hotel.

Miguel A. Hernandez, 50. had pleaded guilty in May before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami federal court to charges linked to prostitution, including bringing Spanish, Columbian, Venezuelan and other Latin American women into the country for his illegal enterprise.

"To facilitate the operation, Hernandez and his associates reserved and paid for plane tickets for foreign nationals to enter the United States, completed immigration paperwork, coached foreign nationals on what to say to customs officials when entering the United States and picked foreign national up at the airport," the U.S Justice Department said in announcing the sentence.

Hernandez had previously been convicted and sentenced to six years in prison in his native country of Spain for immigration fraud, but he'd fled to the United States before serving his sentence.

"This case is a testament to our shared goal of bringing traffickers to justice and vindicating the rights of vulnerable women and girls exploited for financial gain," Vanita Gupta, head of DOJ's civil rights division, said.

For more details:

Photo credit: David J. Neal, Miami Herald



July 07, 2016

Immigration advocates urge Versailles to reconsider hosting Trump


United Families, a Miami immigration advocacy group, publicized an open letter Thursday evening urging Versailles Cuban restaurant to reconsider hosting Donald Trump's roundtable with Hispanic leaders Friday.

The same organization, whose members are immigrants in the country illegally, said it organized protesters at Trump's previous Miami event, a rally at Trump National Doral golf resort in October.

"Versailles restaurant has been for years a refuge where immigrants have come together to express our disagreement and opposition against events that have affected our community and your doors have always been open to immigrants who look for a place to share their experiences," the group wrote Versailles owner Felipe Valls. "It is for that reason that we are very disappointed that your restaurant is welcoming a person who does not sympathize with our community and effectively has used us as scapegoats in his path for power."

Trump's lunch is private, but political events at Versailles regularly draw curious onlookers, supporters and protesters. The restaurant has long opened its doors to both Republicans and Democrats, though Versailles is perhaps best known as a gathering place for hardline Cuban exiles.

Read the group's full letter below:

Continue reading "Immigration advocates urge Versailles to reconsider hosting Trump" »

July 06, 2016

Tea party backs Rubio despite 'huge mistake' over immigration

via @learyreports

He made a "huge mistake" by getting involved in immigration, but Sen. Marco Rubio has the backing of the nation's largest tea party group.

Tea Party Patriots said its super PAC will back Rubio in his re-election bid.

“When he first ran for the Senate in 2010, Marco Rubio had the courage to challenge a popular sitting governor, and Tea Party Patriots all over the state responded by flocking to his candidacy and forming the backbone of his support. Since winning that election, he has served ably and well, and – despite his huge mistake on ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ (read: amnesty for illegal immigrants), from which he says he has learned his lessons – he is, clearly, the strongest conservative candidate for the Senate in Florida," Jenny Beth Martin said in a release.

“Let’s be frank: That mistake hurt him with Tea Party activists in Florida, and across the nation. But he now says he recognizes the difficulty of dealing with such an issue in a comprehensive fashion, and instead supports a one-at-a-time approach – first, implement real border security, and don’t make any further moves until the public agrees that our borders are secure. Then, and only then, will we be able successfully to move on to other aspects of the immigration reform agenda. Tea Party Patriots believes that will be a successful strategy, and we support Sen. Rubio’s decision to follow that course.

Continue reading "Tea party backs Rubio despite 'huge mistake' over immigration" »