February 23, 2015

Mario Diaz-Balart warns Miami-Dade may have to make unpopular choices to fund transportation


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


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."

February 18, 2015

UPDATED In Vegas, Rubio says Senate should fund Homeland Security


Republicans in Congress want to strip funding for President Obama's contested executive immigration actions before passing a budget for the Department of Homeland Security. But U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday that the Senate shouldn't shut down the department just to pass the anti-immigration provisions. The funding deadline is Feb. 27.

Rubio said the GOP-controlled Senate doesn't have the votes to override a certain Obama veto of any legislation tying Homeland Security funding to the immigration actions, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The Florida Republican was in Nevada promoting his new policy book, American Dreams.

"We have to fund Homeland Security," Rubio said in a news conference, according to CNN. "Look, I'm in favor of any measure that has a chance of succeeding that could stop the new order, but the truth of the matter is the president's not going to sign that and we don't have the votes to pass it in the Senate. We can't let Homeland Security shut down."

Like in a prior book-tour stop in Iowa, he faced immigration activists who challenged him on his position. Rubio shepherded a comprehensive immigration-overhaul bill that passed in the Senate in 2013 but has since said only a piecemeal approach would pass Congress. He has also opposed the president's unilateral actions, saying the system should be changed by lawmakers.

UPDATE: After the Las Vegas report about Rubio's remarks, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant clarified that Rubio does not support stripping Republican senators' legislation of the anti-immigration provisions.

Senator Rubio does not support shutting down DHS. But he does support stopping the new executive order on immigration and is willing to support any approach we could get passed to stop it. But the President had made clear he will veto any effort to stop his unconstitutional order. And Senate Democrats have made clear they will not even end there filibuster on the DHS funding bill. The result will be a DHS shutdown which would be harmful to our national security. The answer is not for Republicans to surrender and pass a clean funding bill. The answer is for the President and Senate Democrats to abandon the executive order and cooperate in passing a series of immigration bills beginning with real border security.

The headline of this post was updated in light of Conant's statement.

February 17, 2015

Jeb Bush's immigration position wins GOP donors' praise

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush was held up by top Republican donors today as one of the party’s best voices to champion immigration reform in the coming presidential election.

Both Mike Fernandez, a major GOP donor in Florida, and Spencer Zwick, who national finance chairman of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, singled out Bush during a conference call this afternoon.

“Certainly Gov. Bush has decided to lead on this issue,” Zwick said, adding any candidate needs to clearly say where they are on the issue and not try to say the “most outrageous thing so that they can make national news.”

“We have to have someone who is willing to take on this issue,” he said. “We have to nominate a candidate who is willing to let action be stronger than inaction. Because as Republicans, we’ve let inaction be our model for too long."

The call was arranged by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a Republican group that has tried to push for reform. At the outset Fernandez talked about his own immigrant story, arriving from Cuba in 1965.

“Had you met me back then you would have seen me cleaning animal cages at a hospital,” the billionaire healthcare CEO said. “I could have easily been confused with one of the 11 million undocumented residents we have in this country today.

He said the booming Hispanic population in the U.S. is a “game changer” and that it would be unwise for Republicans not to embrace the community. “We need to welcome these individuals. These individuals are risk takers. They did not come here for anything else other than improving their lives and we need them in order to improve our economy.”

GOP donors and leaders such as Grover Norquist, who was also on the call, have long called for immigration reform.

But those calls stand against a conservative base that has demanded a hardline position that forced Romney to talk about self deportation and figures such as Sen. Marco Rubio to move off calls for a comprehensive approach.

'That's not leadership,' Jeb Bush says of Obama's executive action on immigration


Jeb Bush took to Facebook Tuesday to criticize President Obama's executive action on immigration last year, following the ruling by a federal judge in Texas late Monday temporarily blocking Obama's move.

"Last year, the president overstepped his executive authority and, in turn, hurt the effort toward a commonsense immigration solution," Bush wrote. "That's not leadership. The millions of families affected across the country deserve better.

"Now, more than ever, we need President Obama to work with Congress to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system."

Bush's support of an immigration overhaul -- he co-authored a book about it, Immigration Wars -- doesn't sit well with some of the GOP's conservative grassroots. By calling out Obama for the way he has gone about letting millions of immigrants in the country illegally stay, Bush has found a way to oppose the president, at least when it comes to process.

Proponents of immigration reform have noted that Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, allowed 1.5 million unauthorized immigrants to stay in the U.S. with a 1990 executive action. That's far fewer than the nearly 5 million people affected by Obama's latest action.

Obama first allowed immigrants brought illegally as children to remain in the country. That original policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was unaffected by Monday's ruling in Texas. 

But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Tuesday that the department won't begin to accept DACA extensions tomorrow, as planned, and won't be accepting applications for the new policy, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA. 

The Justice Department plans to appeal the Texas decision, which resulted from a lawsuit filed by a coalition of 26 states, including Florida.

February 06, 2015

Rush Limbaugh's claim about illegal immigrants and measles

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh says the focus on vaccinations in the wake of the measles outbreak is a "leftist Democratic trick" to divert attention from the president’s "DOA" budget plan.

And to the extent that the measles outbreak is real, Limbaugh said Feb. 3, 2015, it was all the fault of the White House anyway.

"We have a vaccination problem for one reason: Barack Hussein Obama and his open borders immigration policy, which opened the southern borders to children sick, healthy, you name it, poor, ill-educated, just tens of thousands of kids flooded the southern border all of last year.

"They were never examined before they got here. They were never examined after they got here and quarantined if they had a disease. They were just sent out across the country. Many of them had measles."  

Other conservative voices have linked measles to illegal immigrants. The conservative website The Blaze wrote about Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who said the disease was brought into the country by "illegal aliens."

The common thread in these statements is the idea that these children were never examined, that they had measles, and Washington took no precautions before allowing them to stay. Turn to Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PunditFact and see some of the other falsehoods PolitiFact has dissected about immigration.

January 29, 2015

Carlos Curbelo backs immigration reform but could support House immigration lawsuit against Obama


House Speaker John Boehner's move toward suing President Obama over his executive immigration action could put Miami Republican members of Congress in a tough spot. They generally support the policies pushed by the president but oppose how he went about them. So would they back a House lawsuit?

Maybe, freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

Freshman Republican Carlos Curbelo of Florida, one of a handful of supporters of comprehensive immigration reform in the Republican caucus, told The Daily Beast that while he would have to see the lawsuit, that "if it's very specific in seeking to hold the Obama Administration for violating the Constitution, I could support it." In his opinion, it needed to be "a question of the Constitution not of the policy goals advanced through the actions." But, while Curbelo noted the lawsuit was not "unimportant," he was more concerned about "an ultimate solution…a series of bills that will address all of our immigration challenges."

However, Curbelo had strongly favored a lawsuit during his campaign last year. When a Spanish-language radio host asked in August if Obama should be impeached over his immigration action, Curbelo suggested suing instead.

"What they should do is sue him, as they have done in other cases, with Obamacare," Curbelo told a WAQI-AM (710) Radio Mambí host known as Lourdes D'Kendall. "If the president exceeds himself, exceeds his authority, they should take him to the Supreme Court. And I'm very sure -- I trust -- that the court won't let us down and will rule in favor of the Constitution. We cannot let this country be ruled by decree. 

"That would even be my position if it were a Republican president pushing a policy I agreed with," Curbelo continued. "We need to honor the Constitution and this country's institutions."

Listen to audio of that campaign interview here, in Spanish, after the two-minute mark.

January 25, 2015

Priebus and Wasserman Schultz mislead on immigration, but Dems have political edge

One of the most bipartisan aspects of immigration reform is the inability of the Republican and Democratic leaders to talk honestly about it.

Simply look at how Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and his Democratic counterpart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, handled the issue last week.

Rather than provide hard facts, they reverted to the political parties’ default position: Recrimination for political point-scoring. The problem for Republicans, though, is the issue benefits Democrats more in presidential election years.

More here

January 21, 2015

GOP's Reince Priebus stumbles on immigration, Democrats crow: "WTF?"


The different Republican State of the Union responses about immigration (nada in English, un poquito en Español) was so tough for national GOP Chairman Reince Priebus to explain Wednesday that he tried to blame.....President Obama.

What about the Republican-controlled House that blocked the measure from a full vote in the chamber for years? Priebus didn’t go there.

“I’m not a policy guy,” Priebus said at one point after stammering on MSNBC to give a response.

The Democratic National Committee loved it, and almost mockingly swore at Priebus by asking in a press release headline: "Reince, WTF are you talking about?" By using the "What The Fuck" text abbreviation, the DNC ensured that Republicans could avoid the topic by pointing to the snarky crudity of the Democrats’ take-down rather than the substance of it.

But as Priebus' response to the original question shows, there's not much of a major credible response anyway. That left Priebus blame-shifting and evading questions asked by the Huffington Post's Sam Stein and ABC's Cokie Roberts on "Morning Joe:" 

Continue reading "GOP's Reince Priebus stumbles on immigration, Democrats crow: "WTF?"" »

December 14, 2014

President Obama's role in the far-left's immigration blowback


If President Obama were Dr. Frankenstein, the far left’s immigration-reform movement is starting to resemble a monster he can't control.

It haunted Obama last week during an interview with Jorge Ramos, the Fusion/Univision pundit who’s an immigration-reform crusader.

Rather than praise Obama for unilaterally sparing as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from deportations, Ramos’ reaction was more like: Why so little so late? Here’s an edited transcript of the exchange:

Ramos: “You always had the legal authority to stop deportations, then why did you deport 2 million people? ... For six years you did it.”

Obama: “No. Listen, Jorge…”

Ramos: “You destroyed many families. They called you deporter-in-chief.”

Obama: “You called me deporter-in-chief.”

Continue reading "President Obama's role in the far-left's immigration blowback" »