March 03, 2014

Wasserman Schultz: Obama ‘looking’ at Venezuela sanctions, should act on immigration


President Barack Obama’s administration is considering imposing sanctions on Venezuelan officials culpable in that nation’s repression and who travel to and hold bank accounts in the United States, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Monday.

“There should be sanctions on individuals. ... The administration is looking at those,” said Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, citing an unnamed “high-level” state department official she spoke with earlier in the morning.

A measure to impose individual sanctions on Venezuelan apparatchiks was introduced last week in the U.S. Senate by Republican Marco Rubio and co-sponsored by Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson.

Wasserman Schultz said she’s also speaking to the administration about Obama taking executive action to clear up the immigration status of some Venezuelans in the United States.

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March 02, 2014

Marco Rubio on Russia's 'lies,' Venezuela's repression and gay vs. religious rights


The crisis in Crimea and the violence in Venezuela are making Marco Rubio a hot-ticket again on cable news.

After fading somewhat from view after the conservative blowback over his immigration bill, Florida's Republican senator is back to being a must-book for the 24-hour news beast, in great part because of his role on the Senate's foreign-relations committee.

Rubio called on the Obama Administration to further "isolate" Russia for its invasion of Ukranian-held Crimea, suggested we help bolster Ukraine's military capabality as well as its government and to restart a missle-defense shield plan that has troubled Russia and, before it, the Soviet Union for decades.

"You’re dealing with a government that lies as a matter of course, and it’s very difficult to enter an understanding with them on anything when they are willing to lie and cover things up in this way," Rubio told NBC's Meet The Press host David Gregory.

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February 26, 2014

Phony outrage and why Alex Sink's immigration comments were right. But dumb.


Republicans are shocked – shocked!

They pearl-clutched and tut-tutted Tuesday after Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink said at a candidate forum that Tampa Bay business leaders want immigration reform so that legal workers can “clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping.”

The Republican Party of Florida condemned the "narrow-minded" comments. Sarasota's Republican Party called Sink a "racist." And Twitter and blogs lit up with the tired conservative indignation-argument about “if a Republican said that…..”

Well, turns out, Republicans and conservatives have said that.

“I am not in favor of a housekeeper or a landscaper crossing the border illegally,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said April 14, 2013 on CBS' "Face the Nation” while discussing his immigration-reform bill (a bill Republicans have blocked in the U.S. House and barely voted for in the Senate).

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February 17, 2014

Bill would extend subsidized healthcare coverage to immigrant children

Since she moved to Central Florida three years ago, Severiana Novas-Francois has been unable to take her daughters to the doctor.

The reason: Children born outside of the United States must wait five years before they qualify for the subsidized health insurance known as Florida KidCare.

Novas-Francois’ children were born in the Dominican Republic, her home country. “I’m a legal resident of the United States [and] my kids [are], also,” she said. “We applied a couple of times for KidCare. They denied us.”

This year, state lawmakers will consider opening KidCare to families like hers — legal residents with uninsured children — by eliminating the five-year waiting period.

The proposal, by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, would help about 26,000 children in Florida, according to estimates from the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

Read more here.

January 09, 2014

Rubio: Pathway to citizenship no sure thing

Sen. Marco Rubio was blunt Thursday: A single comprehensive immigration-reform bill won’t pass Congress — and a pathway to citizenship for those illegally in this country is no guarantee, either.

Rubio indicated he’s prepared to vote for a series of immigration bills from the U.S. House even if none has a citizenship pathway.

“Just because it doesn’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something,” Rubio said. “Ultimately, you don’t solve the immigration problem unless you address the people who are here illegally.”

The Florida Republican said a major hurdle is GOP mistrust of President Obama, whose administration has selectively enforced some immigration laws and “unilaterally” delayed aspects of Obamacare.

As a result, he said, House Republicans worry that passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill would give Obama the chance to legalize the status of up to 11 million undocumented immigrants while slow-walking and delaying border-security efforts dear to conservatives.

“We have tried the one-big-bill approach. I do not believe that it is feasible given the current political climate and the distrust of government,” Rubio said.

More here



December 18, 2013

Miami-Dade plans to stop paying feds for immigration detentions


Fed up with underwriting the nation’s broken federal immigration system, Miami-Dade County plans to stop paying the cost of temporarily housing undocumented immigrants in its jails.

The dramatic shift in policy comes at a time when the cash-strapped county is coping with a tight budget, but some county commissioners say they are also calling attention to what they say is a serious human-rights issue.

“Not only is it about saving money,” said County Commissioner Sally Heyman, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post. “It’s about saving people.”

At issue are Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s requests to keep prisoners in custody for 48 hours after they are scheduled to be released so that they can be turned over to federal authorities. Detainees are often deported soon after.

The so-called “detainers” are part of the contentious federal Secure Communities program, which is intended to encourage police and ICE to share names, fingerprints and other information to identify non-citizens who have committed serious crimes. Miami-Dade has taken part since 2009.

Nationwide, ICE removed more than 400,000 individuals last year, according to the latest figures.

The feds say the program, which began in 2008, is key to protecting public safety and national security.

But immigration-rights activists say the program has ensnared foreign nationals who have been picked up for minor violations, such as traffic offenses, and extended their detentions even if charges are dropped or they have made bail.

More here.

December 06, 2013

Marco Rubio, immigration reformer, funds immigration-reform opponent Tom Cotton


Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's political committee is underwriting as much as $200,000 in ads for the Arkansas Senate campaign of Rep. Tom Cotton for good reason: The 36-year-old Harvard-educated Bronze Star recipient is the type of conservative the GOP dreams about.

And in one respect -- immigration reform -- Cotton appears more conservative and consistent than Rubio, who has repeatedly zig and then zagged over the issue, especially as tea party criticism mounted when he backed the type of "amnesty" he once decried.

For Cotton, Rubio's bipartisan immigration bill was comparable to that worst of proposals to Republicans: President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

“In so many ways, this bill is just like Obamacare -- not just the slap-dash manner it ran through the Senate but also in the big, cumbersome, unwieldy, very complicated undertaking that will begin to collapse under its own weight, and [it is] nothing more than amnesty without any enforcement,” Cotton told Real Clear Politics in July after he played a starring role in a House GOP immigration strategy meeting.

The National Review explained what happened:

The crowd of 200-plus Republicans took notice. From the start, Cotton’s message was a contrast with Ryan’s. He sliced into the Senate’s immigration bill and dismissed the idea of a compromise. He urged Republicans to oppose a conference with the Senate, and warned that any formal negotiations with the upper chamber would lead to disaster. He then turned to Speaker John Boehner, who was standing nearby, and advised him to tread carefully. For a moment, they engaged in a terse back-and-forth.

“We are not worlds apart from the Senate, we are galaxies apart,” Cotton told the speaker. Boehner responded that Cotton shouldn’t worry. “We’re not going to conference until we’re ready,” he said. The speaker coolly explained to Cotton that it’s important to pass legislation that reflects the position of House Republicans.

So, assuming Rubio doesn't retreat any more from his immigration bill and Cotton stays put, this is an area in which they don't see eye to eye.

"Since they strongly agree on, Taxes, Government Spending, Healthcare, Abortion / Social Issues, Foreign Affairs, Government Over-regulation, Energy Independence, and one or two other issues, I guess Marco was OK with them disagreeing on that one," said Terry Sullivan, with Rubio's Reclaim America PAC.

In all, Reclaim America has spent about $300,000 this year on candidates, a change since the National Journal last year called Rubio out for spending big on consultants as he positioned himself, unsuccessfully, to be Mitt Romney's running mate.

December 05, 2013

Of urinating with Mexicans, immigration reform and the battle for CD-26


Congressional District 26 just keeps on giving.

The swing district that stretches from central Miami-Dade to Key West has furnished two separate criminal convictions in unrelated schemes and a tough reelection campaign for Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.

One of his opponents, Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo, issued a blistering press release today that questioned Garcia's fitness to lead Democrats' immigration-reform efforts in the U.S. House. Among the many criticisms, Curbelo highlighted a snippet of a quote from a Frontline documentary in 2008 in which Garcia commented on President George W. Bush's impressive Hispanic outreach.

"He'd probably peed by a pickup truck with a Mexican just like anyone else who's been from Texas," Garcia said.

Said Curbelo: "If Joe Garcia is willing to make comments like the one below, how is he well-suited to lead on immigration reform?"

Garcia responded by pointing out that the seven-second snippet highlighted by Curbelo had no context and made it sound as if he were saying something offensive about Mexicans.

"This guy is out there campaigning while I was on the House floor last night standing up for immigrants," Garcia said. "I'm taking a lead role in immigration reform and he's engaging in this silliness."

Garcia said the full context of his quote made clear he was praising the former Republican president's campaigning: "It was an unprecedented effort that yielded unprecedented results. It was the 'I love you' campaign, by George Bush. The ads were called Te Conosco. 'I know you.' And he did. He was from Texas. You know, he—he—he had, you know, he'd probably peed by a pickup truck with a Mexican just like anyone else who's been from Texas. But the reality is, that—that dynamic of knowing these folks—was very powerful."

Curbelo said he didn't know where the video clip came from, but recently happened across it on YouTube, where it was uploaded in 2012 with the headline "Joe Garcia Said What?"

Curbelo's attack on Garcia wasn't limited to the video clip; he referenced the recent conviction and incarceration of Garcia's former campaign and staff chief in an absentee ballot-request fraud case. The congressman was not implicated in the scheme (which yielded no phony votes) and said he knew nothing about it. A candidate Garcia bested in the August 2012 primary was convicted in a separate campaign-finance crime linked to the incumbent he beat in the general election, former Rep. David Rivera.

Curbelo's press release also questioned the sincerity of the Democrats' immigration-reform push overall, but he shied away from mentioning that the House bill pushed by Garcia, patterned after a bipartisan plan that passed the Senate, has been effectively killed by GOP House leaders.

Curbelo's press release, however, didn't condemn Garcia's bill and he reserved a measure of praise for Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., an immigration-reform leader who's in Miami to sign copies of his new autobiography.

"We respect his commitment to finding a bipartisan solution for immigration reform," Curbelo said. "Gutierrez's visit to Miami is an opportunity to discuss the prospects of a bill getting through the House next year and to highlight the many flaws of our existing immigration system."

Gallup: Obama hemorrhages Hispanic support, drops 23 points in a year


Gallup, the nation's premier polling outfit, has more grim news for President Obama: Hispanics are turning away from him in greater amounts than any other subgroup.

From December 2012 through November, Obama's Hispanic approval ratings fell 23 percentage points, from 75 percent to 52 percent.

Overall, Obama's approval rating remains near historic lows, 41 percent.

"Hispanics' approval ratings of Obama have shown the most variation of any group's ratings throughout his presidency," Gallup explains in an analysis. "That means their views of him are less firmly anchored than those of other groups, which may help explain why their opinions of the president soured more than any other group's in recent months. Despite the significant decline in their approval ratings over the past 12 months, a majority of Hispanics, 52%, still approve of the job Obama is doing."

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To pressure House GOP leaders, Rep. Joe Garcia joins fast for immigration reform


Republican leaders of the U.S. House have stalled taking up an immigration reform bill this year, and Democrats are making sure to keep the pressure on by holding a series of member-to-member fasts.

From a press release:

This morning, Rep. Joe Garcia (FL-26), joined a group of advocates fasting as part of the “Fast 4 Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship” movement.

Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) passed his fast on to Rep. Garcia in a brief ceremony in Rep. Garcia’s office.  Rep. Vargas received the immigration reform fast from Rep. Joe Kennedy III (MA-4), yesterday.

“I am honored to participate in this symbolic event dedicated to the millions of people fighting for comprehensive immigration reform as they seek to keep their families together,” said Rep.  Joe Garcia.


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