Could the law that gives Cubans special immigration privileges survive a political debate to change it?
Miami Republican Carlos Curbelo says yes. The man he's trying to unseat, Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, says no.
Any revision attempt would be too risky, Garcia argued at a debate Tuesday night, because it would remind lawmakers that immigrants from other nationalities don't get the same treatment as Cubans, who are allowed to legally remain in the U.S. after being here for one year and one day.
"You can't revise it," Garcia said. "If you revise the Cuban Adjustment Act, they will take it away from you."
Curbelo has said the law, enacted by Congress in 1966, should be tightened to apply to victims of political persecution and not just so-called economic refugees, who travel frequently back to the island.
"As an American citizen, I cannot support the abuse of the Cuban Adjustment Act," he said in the debate. "It must be preserved for people who are victims."
Garcia acknowledged the abuse but compared it to an office worker stealing supplies: "That doesn't mean you're going to eliminate all paper clips."
In response, Curbelo dismissed Garcia's "all-or-nothing" approach and tried to paint him as a phony bipartisan for having once referred to Republicans on the House floor as "this Taliban."
The two men are vying to represent Florida's 26th congressional district, where a growing number of voters are non-Cuban Hispanics, such as Venezuelans and Colombians. Garcia said he wished there were a similar immigration law for other groups, particularly Venezuelans. He has asked the Obama administration, to no avail, to let more Venezuelans stay in the U.S.