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.

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

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

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

April 13, 2013

Pathway to citizenship doesn't look like easy...er...amnesty street under Senate bill

Pathway to citizenship? Try pathway of probation.

Though bashed as "amnesty" by hardliners, the congressional plans to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants treat them like law breakers who need to watch their step for more than a dozen years.

They’ll have to pay fines, get fingerprinted, show they’re crime-free taxpayers and — little reported until now — check in periodically with a probation-like immigration system to make sure they’re in good standing with the law, according to Democrats and Republicans familiar with the Senate’s proposed legislation, which will be released Tuesday.

Those who miss a scheduled payment of their fines, upwards of $2,000, could lose the right to stay in the United States.

The earliest that most of the currently undocumented immigrants could become citizens: 13 years from the date of passage of the act.

That timeline becomes longer if the federal government doesn’t meet timelines to make good on creating a new visa-tracking system, ensuring employers don’t knowingly hire the undocumented and securing the border — at a cost of at least $5 billion, according to one version of the Senate bill.

The long path could mean that 10 percent or more of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country probably won’t be legalized at the outset of the act’s passage. Thousands more probably won’t become citizens.

The bill’s law-and-order aspects are a must to ensure passage in the conservative House.

Less reported: the measures could prove too conservative for liberals and Democrats, who control the Senate and White House.

“It’s a delicate balancing act,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican and leader on the issue in the House.

“The extreme left and the extreme right will bash us, criticize us,” he said.

Diaz-Balart refuses to discuss any details about a House plan that will be released in the coming weeks. His Republican Miami-Dade neighbor, Sen. Marco Rubio, is giving more details Sunday by appearing on every major talk show, including Univision’s “Al Punto.”

Under the Senate plan pushed by Rubio and the Senate’s so-called “Gang of Eight,” immigrants who came illegally after Jan. 1, 2012, can’t apply for legal status. They face living in this country illegally until they leave or are deported.

The window to apply for legal probationary status may vary from six months to a year after the act’s passage. And that window won’t even open for six months or more — when the federal government is supposed to present a plan for border security.

More here


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/13/3342625/undocumented-immigrants-face-major.html#storylink=cpy

April 11, 2013

Jay-Z raps Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen over rapping him, Beyonce for Cuba travel

@MarcACaputo

In a new rap posted on his website, Rapper Ja-Z singled out Miami Republican Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for questioning and then bashing a Cuba trip taken last week by him and his wife, Beyonce. (Background and links here)

The relevant lyrics from Jay-Z's "Open Letter" (listen here, read them here):

Continue reading "Jay-Z raps Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen over rapping him, Beyonce for Cuba travel " »

April 09, 2013

Diaz-Balart: Obama admin ducked questions about Jay-Bey Cuba trip

It's official: Jay-Z and Beyonce's trip to Cuba was legal, according to the U.S. Treasury Department (not a shocker)

And U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and other exile leaders aren't satisfied with Treasury's response.

Letter here: Diaz-Balart Letter. Press release here:

Continue reading "Diaz-Balart: Obama admin ducked questions about Jay-Bey Cuba trip" »

Hispanic Leadership Network's Miami meeting features Jeb, Diaz-Balart, Fortuño, Ralph Reed

@MarcACaputo

From a press release:

WASHINGTON, DC - The Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) today announced the agenda for its “Family Reunión” conference to be held next Thursday, April 18th, and Friday, April 19th, at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, Florida. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez will serve as conference co-chairs. The two-day gathering will bring together more than 15 distinguished speakers and panelists.

“This year’s HLN conference will focus on three of the most pressing policy matters for Hispanics - the economy, education, and immigration. We will come together as a family to discuss our concerns and hopes for the future. I am honored to co-chair the conference with my friend Carlos Gutiérrez, and look forward to a spirited public debate about the best path forward,” said Governor Jeb Bush.

The conference kicks off on Thursday night with a welcoming reception featuring both co-chairs, as well as former Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño.

“We are proud to once again provide a platform for conservative Hispanics to have a dialogue with our national leaders about the issues that most affect our community. We hope to inspire Hispanics nationwide to continue the policy debate long after our conference,” said HLN Executive Director Jennifer S. Korn.

On Friday, the conference program includes two panel discussions on Immigration and Economy & Education. Former U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello will deliver the keynote address, marking the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, HLN will host two breakout sessions focusing on grassroots advocacy and the media.

The full agenda is below as a JPEG

HLN

April 08, 2013

What Beyonce and Rep. Castor have in common: neither cares much about Cuba human rights, says Rep. Diaz-Balart

What do Jay-Z, Beyonce and Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor have in common?

All went to Cuba last week.

And all have shown relatively little concern for human-rights violations on the island controlled by the Castro dictatorship, said Miami U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who serves with Castor in Congress.

Castor’s office disputed the criticism, pointing to press statements where the Democrat has met with Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez and called for independent investigations into the deaths of others.

But it’s not enough for Diaz-Balart, a Republican leader in Miami’s exile community who raised questions last week about the legality of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s trip to Cuba. That visit overshadowed one made by Castor, who travelled on an unrelated mission to increase business opportunities between Tampa and Cuba.

“She [Castor] has been consistent in trying to help business groups and big-business interests do business with the dictatorship,” said Diaz-Balart. “Unfortunately, she has not been very concerned about human-rights violations, about demanding freedom of the press... about free elections."

Diaz-Balart noted that Beyonce performed for the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2009 at a private concert attended by Jay-Z and others in the Caribbean.

“She [Beyonce] has a history of not being too concerned about human rights,” Diaz-Balart said.

Continue reading "What Beyonce and Rep. Castor have in common: neither cares much about Cuba human rights, says Rep. Diaz-Balart" »

Reuters: Jay-Z, Beyonce Cuba trip was "fully licensed." But questions remain

@MarcACaputo

UPDATE: Click here for a fuller explanation of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Cuba and U.S. sanctions

Pop star Jay-Z and Beyonce's fifth wedding anniversary trip to Cuba was "fully licensed" and therefore was legal, a source told Reuters.

But beyond that, it's unclear just what kind of permission they got.

And Miami's Republican U.S. representatives, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, say they want to know more about the case. On Friday, they openly called for details of the trip by the R&B stars who happen to also be big-time backers of President Obama.

Many celebrities have visited Cuba, but this trip drew more attention because it was billed in the press as a purely tourism-driven trip, said Diaz-Balart, and that's not legal.

Under federal law, American citizens traveling to Cuba generally need United States Treasury Department permission to spend U.S. currency on the communist island because U.S. money is technically property of the federal government. Licenses are often granted for journalistic, academic, religious, academic or cultural reasons.

Assuming the performers were given a license on cultural grounds, did their mothers, body guards and other members of their retinue receive a license to travel to Cuba? Also, the performers stayed at a hotel reportedly costing $149 a night. And under many licensing arrangements, we're told, many U.S. citizens are limited to spending about $140 daily. Did this apply to Jay-Bey?

Developing.... more later

 

April 06, 2013

Miami lawmakers question Beyoncé, Jay-Z trip to Cuba

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Cuban-American Republicans from Miami, sent a letter late Friday to the Treasury Department asking for details about R&B stars Beyoncé and Jay-Z's trip this week to Cuba.

In the letter to the office of foreign assets control, the members of Congress say they want to find out which type of license the couple received to travel to the island, what the purpose of their trip is and who approved it.

"As you know, U.S. law expressly prohibits the licensing of financial transactions for 'tourist activities' in Cuba," the letter says. It also notes that so-called "people-to-people" licenses require that travelers have "a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities" in Cuba.

"Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports described the couple's trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda," the letter says. "We represent a community of many who have been deeply and personally harmed by the Castro regime's atrocities, including former political prisoners and the families of murdered innocents."

March 01, 2013

Walking the talk: Miami Reps Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen among most-bipartisan

@MarcACaputo via NBC Latino

According to new ratings from National Journal, Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), and Raul Labrador (Idaho), as well as Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas were near the ideological center of Congress, after an analysis of votes taken in 2012. Republican David Rivera of Florida also ranked near the middle but lost re-election last fall because of ethics, not ideology.

The most moderate Latino Member last year was Ros-Lehtinen, who has been in Congress for more than two decades and had a conservative rating of 49.3 percent last year (100 percent would be the most conservative Member of Congress). She added to her centrist credentials this week when she signed a legal brief, along with 75 other Republicans, that advocated for gay and lesbian couples’ right to marry.

Her Florida colleagues, Diaz-Balart (52 percent conservative) and Rivera (53.7 percent), also ranked as two of the more moderate House Members, along with Herrera Beutler (56.2 percent) and Labrador (58.2 percent), both of whom were first elected in 2010. Labrador has received some national attention for his efforts to push his party to a more moderate position on immigration (even though he still opposes a path to citizenship), but he consistently gets excellent marks with conservative, anti-tax groups.