September 04, 2017

On Twitter and TV, Ros-Lehtinen takes Trump to task on DACA

@PatriciaMazzei

Scrolling through Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's Twitter feed over the last two days was a study in the retiring congresswoman's longtime frustration toward President Donald Trump over his aggressive deportation policy. The White House appears likely to move to end a program Tuesday that protects from deportation immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.

A sampling, from oldest to newest:

September 01, 2017

Miami billionaire wants to meet with Paul Ryan on DACA

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@PatriciaMazzei

A billionaire Miami political donor wants to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan to press his case for Congress to protect from deportation immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.

Healthcare magnate Mike Fernandez, a vocal opponent of the Trump administration's aggressive deportation policy, has asked Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo to arrange a meeting with Ryan, according to an email exchange Fernandez forwarded Friday to the Miami Herald and a group of local and state business, political and civic leaders.

President Donald Trump has threatened to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday an announcement would come Tuesday.

"We love the DREAMers," Trump told reporters. "We love everybody."

In the email, Fernandez praised Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon who was born in Mexico and crossed the border into the U.S. as a teenager. Fernandez called him a "dear friend."

"This is the type of talent we will be deporting" he wrote. "What are we doing to our Nation?"

Fernandez included a Friday morning email to Curbelo calling the sophomore congressman "bold" because he has filed legislative amendments trying to keep the Trump administration from spending money to deport DACA recipients.

Curbelo has also filed a bill that would effectively enact DACA into law -- an effort supported by other Republicans, including Ryan, who said Friday he opposes having Trump end DACA before letting Congress take it up.

From his BlackBerry, Curbelo responded to Fernandez on Friday: "No stone can be left unturned."

He acknowledged the White House would probably "weaken" the program.

"I feel good about a legislative fix before the end of the year," Curbelo added. "Had a good conversation with Paul. Will work on a meeting for you this month."

Curbelo previously arranged a 2016 Ryan meeting with Fernandez over Cuba policy. Fernandez was then a registered Republican who backed former President Barack Obama's renewed diplomatic relations with Havana.

Fernandez has since left the GOP and registered without party affiliation. Earlier this year, he created a fund to help defend unauthorized immigrants in court.

Earlier this week, Fernandez took part in a Miami Dade College forum supporting DACA.

Fernandez was a major financier of Jeb Bush's presidential campaign. Friday on Facebook, Bush also urged legislative action to protect Dreamers:

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

August 31, 2017

Miami Republican wants to keep White House from spending money to end DACA, if DACA survives that long

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@PatriciaMazzei

As early as Friday, President Donald Trump could end a program that protected from deportation young immigrants brought into the country illegally.

But if the White House doesn't immediately eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, at least one Miami Republican member of Congress wants to try to make it more difficult for the Trump administration to act on its own.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo recently filed three amendments to a House spending bill intended to block the use of budget funds to alter DACA. It appears to be a long-shot approach, given that the GOP-held House seems unlikely to oppose Trump on cracking down on immigration, an issue important to the president's base.

One amendment would prohibit the White House from using any funds appropriated in the bill to change DACA. Another would ban the funds from being used to deport DACA recipients or cancel or suspend their work permits.

A third amendment would allow DACA recipients, often called "Dreamers," to be eligible for government employment.

The mega appropriations bill is scheduled to be considered in the House next week, after Congress returns from its summer recess.

Some 50,000 people benefit from DACA in Florida. Curbelo filed a new version of the "Dream Act" -- legislation that would allow people brought into the country illegally as children to remain -- in March.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

Diaz-Balart to Miami-Dade: 'C'mon, man. Use me.'

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via @doug_hanks

As Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart tells it, he watches from the chairman’s perch of a powerful transportation committee just waiting to use his authority to steer billions of dollars in federal transit aid to his home county of Miami-Dade. The wait continues.

“C’mon man,” Diaz-Balart said. “Use me.”

His comments to the Miami Herald Editorial Board this week capture one of the biggest divides in Miami-Dade’s ongoing debate about whether to pursue an expensive rail expansion or make do with some sort of modernized bus system.

Advocates of rail say county leaders’ unwillingness to pick a single rail corridor to be built first has left Miami-Dade paralyzed. An ongoing study of six potential rail lines, they say, leaves Miami-Dade unable to start the lengthy federal application process that could eventually let Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, use his influence as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee for transportation to advance a hometown project to the top of the funding list.

Skeptics see the years required for federal approval as a delay that residents won’t tolerate as traffic worsens. Now, Mayor Carlos Gimenez has joined their ranks. A recent memo from the mayor and his financial team outlines a more daunting objection: Even if Washington came through with billions to build new rail lines for Miami-Dade, the county doesn’t have the millions needed to operate it.

More here.

August 29, 2017

Prosecutors run out of time to charge former U.S. Rep. David Rivera

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@PatriciaMazzei

Federal prosecutors had half a decade to bring criminal charges against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera in an illegal campaign-finance scheme that landed two of his co-conspirators in jail.

They didn’t. And now, they will no longer be able to do so.

Tuesday marked the five-year anniversary of the last recorded act in the conspiracy involving at least $69,000 in secret money Rivera, a Republican who was then a member of Congress, was suspected to have funneled into the campaign of Justin Lamar Sternad, a ringer candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary. As of Wednesday, the statute of limitations to indict Rivera on any of the same charges as his co-conspirators will have expired.

Rivera will have escaped criminal prosecution, though the feds are still going after him in civil court.

He is now a 2018 candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, the chamber where he began his political career in 2002. 

“I can’t really fathom how a person that has been named as a co-conspirator is out there, while I had to serve a sentence, and so did Mr. Sternad,” Ana Alliegro, the Republican consultant Rivera used as a go-between to send Sternad money, told the Miami Herald in an interview Tuesday. “What upsets me is that politicians don’t go to jail in this state. I don’t get it. They don’t get reprimanded.”

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, El Nuevo Herald staff

August 27, 2017

Trujillo won't resign from Florida Legislature for Trump administration post

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Carlos Trujillo said Sunday he won't resign his seat in the Florida Legislature if the U.S. Senate confirms him to a post in the Trump administration.

On Friday, the White House nominated Trujillo, a Republican, to be a United Nations representative under Ambassador Nikki Haley

Trujillo said he confirmed over the weekend that the position would not require him to abandon his elected office. He is term-limited from the state House next year. That would avoid a special election to replace him in House District 105, a Republican-leaning seat.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

August 25, 2017

Trump nominates Trujillo to United Nations post

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo has been tapped to serve in the United Nations, the White House announced Friday.

President Donald Trump intends to nominate Trujillo to the role of representative to the UN general assembly. The position would make the powerful Florida House budget chief one of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s four deputies.

Trujillo, an attorney, would take Haley’s place in meetings and assemblies when she’s unavailable. He would also get the title of “ambassador.”

His nomination has been in the works for months. Trujillo was an early Trump supporter. He missed a budget committee hearing in April amid rumors he was in Washington, interviewing for a possible ambassadorship to Argentina or Panama. He was later said to be under consideration for an appointment to the Organization of American States.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald 

August 24, 2017

Taddeo fundraiser will feature former presidential candidate O'Malley

FullSizeRender (35)@PatriciaMazzei

An unexpected guest is headlining an upcoming fundraiser for Miami Democratic Senate candidate Annette Taddeo: one-time 2016 presidential candidate Martin O'Malley.

O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, will join other Taddeo supporters Tuesday at the posh Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Taddeo is running in a special Sept. 26 Senate Districit 40 election against Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

O'Malley dropped out of the 2016 race after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses, but he may still have future presidential ambitions -- which explains why he's trying to be helpful to a Democrat in swing-state Florida.

Also hosting the reception are a slew of state and local elected Democrats, activists, attorneys and donors, according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald.

Taddeo raised more than $152,000 from July 21-Aug. 18, the latest campaign-finance reports show. But that still lagged behind Diaz, who raked in more than $382,000. The primary was July 25.

Republicans expect to spend $3 million in the expensive race to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican who resigned in scandal in April.

Christian "He-Man" Schlaerth is also running, without party affiliation.

August 23, 2017

Pence on Venezuela: ‘Our resolve is unwavering’

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@PatriciaMazzei

Vice President Mike Pence hinted Wednesday at soon-to-come economic sanctions against the Venezuelan government, but he offered little in the way of specifics of what a more robust U.S. response might look like or when it might come, choosing instead to deliver a broader message of hope to increasingly despondent Venezuelans.

Pence indicated the Trump administration intends to further punish Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his loyalists for undermining the South American country’s democracy. Broader sanctions, perhaps aimed at restricting trade in Venezuelan debt in dollars, could come as early as this week, the Miami Herald has learned. But Pence did not detail any potential penalties.

“Our resolve is unwavering,” Pence told a few hundred people at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Doral, Miami’s Venezuelan immigrant hub. “You may be assured: Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States of America will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”

The crowd, which had waited hours for Pence, responded with enthusiastic bursts of applause. Women with the tricolor Venezuelan flag draped over their shoulders appeared to be channeling energy built up over months of worry about their country’s prolonged political crisis.

Libertad!” they chanted.

Pence spent the day in Doral to bookend his recent swing through Latin America, where regional U.S. allies pledged to also pressure Maduro. The vice president noted with satisfaction that Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced Tuesday that Venezuelans will be soon be required to obtain travel visas into his country — a move denounced by Maduro’s government.

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

Miami Democrats running for Congress start rolling out endorsements

@PatriciaMazzei

It's August 2017 and Democrats competing in a crowded field for a Miami congressional seat are already trying to one-up each other in the endorsement game, a full year ahead of the 2018 primary election.

To wit: Candidate Matt Haggman said Wednesday he's been backed by former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.

Haggman's announcement followed state Rep. David Richardson, who said Tuesday he's secured the support of former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson.

Richardson's announcement followed state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, who said earlier Tuesday he's won the endorsement of South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard.

So, why the rush to reveal endorsements when few people are paying attention?

Rodríguez, who has been reluctant to bash President Donald Trump, was shoring up his liberal bona fides. Richardson, who's positioned himself as the most left-leaning candidate of the bunch, was showing his establishment support. Haggman, one of several non-Hispanic white candidates in the race, was signaling he has Hispanic support. (Haggman named Diaz a campaign co-chair along with six others in a diverse group: Adriana Cisneros, Brian Bilzin, Al Dotson, Darlene Boytell-Perez, Felecia Hatcher and Marta Viciedo.) 

Mostly, though, the candidates need to attract donors early on in the race. There are seven -- possibly eight -- people vying for the nomination in Florida's Democratic-leaning 27th district. All are tapping much of the same local Democratic donor pool.

But if Trump's victory last year proved anything in politics, it's that endorsements might not matter much at all. The only exceptions might be if the endorser can attract new donors, bring organized grassroots supporters, or serve as surrogates in, say, Spanish-language media outlets for non-bilingual candidates.

Whether the endorsements announced this week do any of that probably won't be obvious until...next year. Or at least the next fundraising quarter.

The other candidates running are former state Judge Mary Barzee Flores, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell is also considering a run.