March 22, 2014

After Pelosi presser, SEIU activist gets arrested outside Diaz-Balart's office in immigration demonstration


A national union organizer and immigration activist was arrested after refusing repeated police requests to demonstrate farther away from a Doral building that houses U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s office.

The Friday arrest of 68-year-old Eliseo Medina is the latest sign of the increasing pressure from Democrats and their allies to get U.S. House Republicans to schedule an election-year vote on immigration reform.

“This is brilliant. This is brilliant,” one activist, whose identity is unclear from a YouTube video, said after Doral police busted Medina, a Los Angeles resident who’s the international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union.

Medina’s arrest and subsequent release from jail – on trespassing and nonviolent resisting of arrest charges -- made local English- and Spanish-language television.

Continue reading "After Pelosi presser, SEIU activist gets arrested outside Diaz-Balart's office in immigration demonstration" »

March 13, 2014

Immigrant tuition bill ready for House floor

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a proposal that would allow some undocumented immigrants (as well as the children of military personnel stationed on Florida bases) to pay in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities.

The 19-7 vote was closer than some observers expected.

Voting in favor of the measure: Republican Reps. Dennis Baxley; Marti Coley; Steve CrisafulliErik Fresen; Eddy Gonzalez; Ed Hooper; Seth McKeelMarlene O'Toole; Jimmy Patronis; and Dana Young; and Democratic Reps. Joe Gibbons; Janet Cruz; Reggie Fullwood; Mia Jones; Mark Pafford; Hazel Rogers; Darryl Rouson; Cynthia Stafford; and Alan Williams.

Voting against: Republican Reps. Ben Albritton; Richard Corcoran; Jamie Grant; Matt Hudson; Clay Ingram; Charles McBurney and Greg Steube.

The bill had changed considerably from its last committee stop.

On Thursday, Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami, added language that would prevent colleges and universities from raising their tuition rates more than six percent above the rate set by the Florida Legislature. It would also eliminate the automatic tuition increase meant to account for inflation. 

Nuñez said she added the provision to make the House proposal more like the one in the Senate. That bill prohibits colleges and universities from raising tuition above the rate set by lawmakers, and already has the support of Gov. Rick Scott.

Expect the Senate version to begin moving soon.

On Thursday, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg said he and Latvala were working on revisions to the proposal. For example, instead of allowing undocumented students to be considered "residents for tuition purposes," the bill would grant partial tuition waivers to undocumented students.

Explained Legg: "Giving 'resident' status could open undocumented students up to benefits like need-based financial aid, and benefits even outside the realm of education." (Legg added that there was a "finite pot" of need-based financial aid for Florida students that would otherwise be diluted.)

Legg and Latvala were also working on language that would make sure no Florida residents were displaced by undocumented students.

Still, the bill may be a hard sell to some Republican lawmakers.

Some Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said Thursday's vote was challenging.

"I struggled voting for this," said Baxley, who represents a conservative district in Central Florida. "But if you live in Florida, you should pay in-state tuition."

Baxley said he was also convinced by Nuñez's reading of Ezekiel 18:20: "The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child."

Grant, of Tampa, said he voted against the proposal over concerns it might preclude some Florida residents from being able to pay in-state tuition rates.

"I think there is a fix," Grant said. "We are all trying to get there."


March 06, 2014

Court says state law prevents Tampa immigrant from being admitted to Florida Bar

In a long-anticipated decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Tampa immigrant and FSU law school graduate Jose Godinez-Samperio cannot be admitted to the Florida Bar.

But the court called on the Florida Legislature to intervene quickly to correct what it called an "injustice." When a similar set of circumstances occurred in California, that state's Legislature changed the law to allow non-citizens to become members of the Bar.

"The Florida Legislature is in the unique position to act on this integral policy question and remedy the inequities that the unfortunate decision of this Court will bring to bear," the justices wrote.

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners had asked the state's high court for an advisory opinion on the question. The court concluded that an immigrant's legal status is determined solely by federal law, and a 1996 federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving certain state "public benefits," including a professional license — in this case, to practice law — issued by an agency that receives state money, in this case, the Florida Supreme Court.

Continue reading "Court says state law prevents Tampa immigrant from being admitted to Florida Bar" »

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.

Continue reading "Wasserman Schultz: Obama ‘looking’ at Venezuela sanctions, should act on immigration" »

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.

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

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).

Continue reading "Phony outrage and why Alex Sink's immigration comments were right. But dumb." »

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.