July 26, 2013

Reps. Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart join chorus of critics over Steve King's DREAMer-drug-mule comments

@MarcACaputo

Miami’s three Cuban-American members of Congress have a message for fellow U.S. Rep. Steve King, who said more DREAMer immigrants are drug mules than valedictorians: Be quiet.

King’s statements, which drew swift rebukes from Republican congressional leaders earlier in the week, have become the latest flash-point in the immigration debate in the conservative House, which is divided over whether and how to reform the system.

“These comments are outrageous and reflect only this particular member’s views,” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican House member like King, said in a statement. “Such statements are factually untrue, hurtful and seem designed to divide rather than to bring our nation together.”

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June 05, 2013

House immigration talks breaking down over public-healthcare for one-time illegal immigrants

@MarcACaputo

Should current undocumented immigrants get some public-healthcare benefits if their status is legalized?

U.S. House Republicans say no. Democrats say yes.

The answer to that question is dividing the House immigration-reform working group and causing it to break down. The last meeting is today.

The catch: years ago, when the group began meeting, the bipartisan group agreed that the newly legalized would not be a "public charge." That is, that they wouldn't get social-services.

But then California Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra appeared brought up an aspect of the issue, which Republicans and some other Democrats thought was already agreed to and closed. Becerra, a rising star in his party, belongs to the same California delegation as Democratic leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"I hope we can still reach an agreement," said Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the immigration-working group. He declined to name names or divulge the contents of the agreement, but he blamed "Democratic leadership" for pressuring at least one member to withhold support.

"It's difficult," he said. "We've had agreements from long ago that all of a sudden wasn't agreed to by the Democratic leadership."

Frank Sharry, an activist with the America's Voices immigration-reform group, said it's tough to figure out what the dispute is. The talks have been in secret. So it's unclear who advocated for what and what the specific source of the disagreement is.

"As I understand it, they talked past each other," Sharry said. "Democrats assumed emergency Medicaid would remain, and Republicans assumed these people would get nothing."

Advocates are frustrated that such a big bipartisan agreement could die over such a relatively small thing. The issue only involves those who would qualify for a pathway to citizenship, which would be smaller than the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently estimated to be in the country.

ABC made it sound as if the deal was dead: "congressmen will meet for the last time today without reaching an agreement on a House bill."

If this fails, it's a big blow to the immigration-reform effort, but it's not a killer. Republicans control the House and they can pass pretty much what they want. Of course, the Democratic-controlled Senate might not agree to the House bill and the House doesn't like the Senate bill.

Immigration reform was put a little more in doubt Tuesday when Sen. Marco Rubio, another leading Republican from Miami, raised doubts about the bill he had helped craft. He said there needs to be more border security in the Senate plan, and he's drumming up support for amendments in the Senate.

"If those amendments don’t pass," Rubio told radio-show host Hugh Hewitt, "then I think we’ve got a bill that isn’t going to become law, and I think we’re wasting our time. So the answer is no."


May 20, 2013

RIP: Lincoln Gabriel Diaz-Balart, 29.

@MarcACaputo

LDBLincoln Gabriel Diaz-Balart, son and namesake of a former congressman and nephew of a current U.S. representative, died Sunday at the age of 29.

The family has asked for privacy and time to grieve.

The Diaz-Balart family is, perhaps, the most-politically powerful in Miami's Cuban-exile community.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is a sitting Republican representative. His brother, Lincoln Diaz-Balart retired from congress after the 2010 elections. Another brother, Jose Diaz-Balart is a Telemundo host. A cousin of theirs is son and namesake of Fidel Castro, a prior uncle by marriage. A longtime family friend and virtual sister, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, expressed her sorrow this morning in a radio interview during which she spoke of the toll of depression and suicide.

The family's statement:

It is with infinite sadness that we announce the passing, on May 19, 2013, of our beloved son and brother, Lincoln Gabriel Diaz-Balart.

For many years, Lincoln Gabriel struggled with depression.

Lincoln Gabriel was a kind and loving human being. His love and compassion touched many lives during his 29 years.

We will remember him with profound love and devotion for the rest of our lives.

Lincoln, Cristina, and Daniel Diaz-Balart

May 16, 2013

After Democrat brinksmanship, House group reaches immigration deal

@MarcACaputo& @FrancoOrdonez

A bipartisan U.S. House group hammered out an immigration-reform deal late Thursday after years of closed-door meetings and last-minute brinksmanship from a top Democrat.

The final agreement, which could be drafted into legislation by June 1, came together after California Rep. Xavier Becerra dropped what sources said was a blanket objection to denying immigrants healthcare benefits after they become legalized as part of a pathway to citizenship.

The House members and their aides refused to discuss many particulars, although it’s clear that portions of their bill are more conservative than the plan from the Democratically controlled Senate.

The House plan would call for a citizenship path that last 15 years – two years longer than the Senate version.

But it’s not too conservative, either.

“It’s pretty clear if we’re going to pass legislation, it has to be bipartisan,” Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Miami.

“The reason this has been a long arduous and difficult process – again if I had drafted it myself it would have been different – but the fact is you have to keep both parties on board.”

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May 09, 2013

"Amnesty is amnesty:" Rubio, Diaz-Balart have immigration problems in FL's delegation

A sizable number of Florida's Republican U.S. House members have problems with the Senate immigration bill championed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

And that spells trouble for ultimate passage in the GOP-controlled House even as a Senate committee marks up the bill today. There, Rubio's longtime friend and de facto immigration expert Mario Diaz-Balart is trying to gain consensus behind the scenes. Obviously, it's not easy.

"No matter how you might color it, amnesty is amnesty," Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, told The Tampa Bay Times.

Diaz-Balart and Rubio say they're not for amnesty, but amnesty is in the eye of the beholder. And there are a lot of beholders.

Story here

April 21, 2013

From shadows to spotlight, Mario Diaz-Balart plays powerful role in immigration talks

@MarcACaputo

Mario Diaz-Balart spoke bluntly to his fellow U.S. House Republicans during a closed-door meeting at Washington’s Capitol Hill Club.

“Immigration is the 800-pound gorilla,” the Miami congressman told the room of vote-counting whips just seven days after last November’s election.

“The 800-pound gorilla just punched us in the face.”

Indeed, Hispanic voters had turned from Republicans in record numbers, in heavy measure because of the way the party’s candidates handled immigration.

But beyond the political numbers, Diaz-Balart said, the immigration policy data mattered even more.

About 11 million immigrants illegally live in the country. The system is broken. The time to fix it, he said, is during a non-election year.

“After I was done speaking, unlike in previous years, a huge number of my colleagues on the whip team came up to me to tell me it was time to do it,” Diaz-Balart told The Herald.

“What really changed,” he said, “was a willingness by many to confront the small handful of members who have been very vocal against doing anything, against doing anything realistic.”

That day, Nov. 13, marks not just a turning point in the immigration debate, but a significant moment in Diaz-Balart’s political career.

Today, the longtime lawmaker plays one of the most-crucial Washington roles in immigration that many have never heard about.

More here


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/20/3355230/from-shadows-to-spotlight-mario.html#storylink=cpy

April 19, 2013

Mario Diaz-Balart: Grassley’s terrorism-immigration bill link “not appropriate at this time.”

 @MarcACaputo

“Lower the rhetoric. Lower the decibels.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was giving that advice to the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network conference in Coral Gables during a talk about immigration reform – just as Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley appeared to have done just that in Washington.

At a committee hearing, Grassley said the immigration-reform bill ought to be discussed in connection with the Boston Marathon terror attack.

“Given the events of this week, it is important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system,” said Grassley, a Republican like Miami’s Diaz-Balart, a House leader on immigration.

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April 17, 2013

The other gang speaks: Diaz-Balart, House immigration group comment on Gang of 8 plan

The following is from a press release:

Washington, D.C. – A bipartisan group of eight Members from the U.S. House of Representatives released the following statement today regarding their efforts for comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system:

“Americans want to see the nation’s broken immigration system fixed, and they know it will take bipartisanship to solve this problem in a sensible and rational way. This week, a bipartisan group of Senators stepped forward to introduce their proposal, and we applaud their effort.

"We are also working on a good faith, bipartisan effort in the House. We believe we will soon agree on a reasonable, common-sense plan to finally secure our borders and strengthen our economy, with a tough but fair process that respects the rule of law so immigrants can contribute to our country.

"While we have made substantial progress, we continue to work diligently towards a bill that keeps America strong, competitive and true to our values.” — Reps. Xavier Becerra (CA), John Carter (TX), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Luis Gutierrez (IL), Sam Johnson (TX), Raul Labrador (ID), Zoe Lofgren (CA), and John Yarmuth (KY) # # #

April 16, 2013

Will do-nothing Congress kill lawmakers call to fight $5b tax-ID fraud industry?

@MarcACaputo

Tax Day is no longer just a deadline for citizens to rush and file their returns.

It’s now a day for members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike —to file legislation or announce ways to prevent an estimated $5 billion in tax-identification fraud, which is particularly virulent in Florida and especially South Florida.

The effort by local lawmakers is nothing new, nor is the fact that the measures have died year-after-year in a do-nothing Congress.

On Monday, Miami-area Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Garcia and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all promoted legislation to put an end to the practice. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson announced a bill last week.

“Something needs to be done,” said Jon Simpkins, a Miami-Dade businessman who appeared with his wife, a tax-ID fraud victim, at Garcia’s press conference.

It took the Internal Revenue Service until April 8 to supply the family their tax-refund money from last year — a week before this year’s tax-filing deadline.

“I’m surprised they haven’t fixed this yet,” Simpkins said, detailing the delays and difficulties of just getting the IRS to do its job.

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April 14, 2013

Pitbull's rap response to Jay-Z's Cuba-trip Open Letter is a headscratcher for some

@MarcACaputo

Miami rapper Pitbull released a rap response to Jay-Z's "Open Letter" rap response to Miami's Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Marco Rubio for criticizing his recent trip to Cuba. (Yeah, it's confusing. Here's the last link that has other links).

Partisans in the Twittersphere seem confused. Is Pitbull taking sides? The wondering is understandable. Pitbull is a party rapper not known for subtlety (Rubio said as much on Twitter before clarifying his remarks).

But this is different.

Pitbull's track is less a political statement than a stream-of-consciousness that sounds like a rhyming history of Cubans in Miami, touching on everything from Scarface (the movie soundtrack appears to be sampled, FYI) to the Mariel boatlift crime wave to Operation Pedro Pan to Hermanos Al Rescate to Elian Gonzalez

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