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September 07, 2017

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen calls for extending TPS to Caribbean countries hit by Hurricane Irma (updated)

Dominican Republic Hurrican Irma


Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen  joined a top Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee on calling for the Department of Homeland Security to extend Temporary Protected Status to Caribbean countries hit by Hurricane Irma. 

"I support extending TPS to the folks living in the U.S. who are from nations impacted by Hurricane Irma," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "For them to go back to their areas that have been devastated by Irma would not be constructive because the infrastructure is not able to sustain the economy. Jobs would be impossible for them to get and if they are granted TPS here, they can earn a living and pay taxes to help our economy."

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., also issued a statement on Thursday expressing support for allowing Caribbean citizens from places in Irma's wake to temporarily stay in the United States.  

“I am heartbroken by the loss of life and damage caused by Hurricane Irma, even as the storm still churns toward the United States mainland," Engel said in a statement. "Images from the island of Barbuda—reportedly no longer habitable—are especially haunting. I urge the Trump Administration to assist our friends in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico with all available resources. In particular, the Administration must provide Temporary Protected Status to Caribbean citizens who lived directly in Irma’s destructive path but are currently residing in the United States and unable to return to their home countries. I plan to lead efforts to ensure that this happens. Congress must also get to work to make sure any needed disaster relief assistance is quickly appropriated for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean region where Irma did heavy damage." 

The TPS program allows foreign nationals already in the United States from 10 countries to stay in the United States for a designated period of time. President Donald Trump, who continues to espouse a tough-on-immigration line, hasn’t indicated that he’s open to extending the program to another country.

One of the 10 countries on the TPS list, Haiti, lies within Irma's path. Other countries impacted by Irma include Antigua and Barbuda and the Dominican Republic, along with overseas territories of the UK, France and the Netherlands. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were also impacted by Irma, though residents there are U.S. citizens and not subject to TPS. 

Engel cited a 2016 law he co-authored with Ros-Lehtinen as justification for extending TPS to the Caribbean. 

“Earlier this year, the State Department and USAID released the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in the Caribbean, mandated by a law that I authored with Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen," Engel said in a statement. "This strategy promises renewed engagement with the region and strengthened resilience against natural disasters. I urge the Administration to move quickly to respond to Hurricane Irma and then support the Caribbean in preparing for future emergencies."


Congress confident it will find money for Irma as FEMA runs low on funds

IMG_Hurricane_Irma_2_1_OQCADA70_L340040219 (1)

@alextdaugherty @andreadrusch

Donald Trump gave Florida some fiscal breathing room as Hurricane Irma approaches the state’s east coast.

The president gave Congress more time to pass a recovery package worth billions if Irma causes major damage when he defied Republicans on Wednesday. Trump cut a deal with Democrats to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and keep the government running as part of a package to provide hurricane-related aid.

FEMA is set to run out of money by Friday, but Congress is expected to quickly send a $15 billion relief bill for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts and potential damage from Irma to Trump’s desk. The Senate passed the bill 80-17 on Thursday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., like many Republicans, was not happy that Trump made a deal with Democrats instead of GOP lawmakers. But he acknowledged that the agreement makes it easier to get funding as Florida prepares for a major hurricane. The deal would extend government funding and the debt limit, which was expected to be reached this month, through December 15.

I have “never supported a debt limit increase without fiscal restraint,” Rubio told Fox News radio. “And about the only good news in this whole endeavor is that it does provide funding for FEMA and it does those sorts of things I’ve talked about until December, which hopefully gives us time to go about doing it the right way.”

Members of Congress from South Florida expressed optimism that Congress will provide FEMA with the funding necessary to help Florida recover.

“Congress has always been there for the victims of natural disasters and I have no doubt that we will use the people’s money wisely,” Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. “This isn’t the government’s money, it’s the taxpayer’s money and that’s what they expect from their government agencies, to replenish the coffers of state and local officials who have dedicated a lot of funds to helping the community. I have no doubt that Congress will come through for us.”

The relatively quick response from Congress on Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged parts of Texas and Louisiana, as well as potential Hurricane Irma relief is in contrast to the months-long debate over funding for a Superstorm Sandy aid package in 2012 and 2013. When Congress was debating how much money to spend on Sandy, FEMA was relatively flush with cash to provide short-term relief to affected areas in New Jersey and New York.

That isn’t the case with FEMA in 2017.

The agency only has a few hundred million dollars, and it’s spending it fast.

“Earlier today, we had a conference call with FEMA officials, and the latest update is that FEMA has approximately $460 million remaining in its disaster relief fund,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo said at the Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations Center in Doral on Thursday. “They are spending at a clip of $200 million a day.”

The $15 billion Congress is considering gives FEMA 75 more days of funding if it spends about $200 million a day. FEMA’s spending could go up depending on how much is needed for Harvey and Irma.

“I want the Senate to be forewarned that this $15 billion package, this is only temporary, it will probably only take us through mid-October at the most,” Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said Thursday.

Members of Congress from Florida and Texas were confident more money will be available if needed.

Read more here.

Miami-Dade expands mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Irma

@doug_hanks @PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez expanded evacuation orders Thursday to the county’s coast and other inland areas as Hurricane Irma threatened to bring severe flooding to South Florida.

Gimenez’s new order covers the rest of evacuation Zone B as well as Zone C, a rapid escalation of Miami-Dade’s efforts to get residents to flee areas considered most vulnerable to dangerous storm surge. On Wednedsay, Gimenez told residents in Zone A and the eastern part of Zone B — Miami Beach and the county’s other barrier islands — to begin evacuating at 7 a.m. Thursday.

The expanded order for all of Zone B includes Miami’s two main office and condo districts on Brickell Avenue and downtown, as well as large portions of South Dade. Parts of Cutler Bay, Florida City and Homestead — a city ravaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 — sit in the expanded evacuation area. For Zone C, the evacuation orders expand even further inland, encompassing the rest of Homestead, as well as at least parts of Coral Gables, South Miami, Miami Shores and North Miami Beach.

Gimenez said he decided to expand the orders after studying storm-surge maps provided Thursday morning by the National Hurricane Center. The new order will be effective sometime later Thursday. The mayor urged people to first seek shelter with friends and family before going to an emergency shelter.

“Now is the time for us to come together and help each other out,” Gimenez said.

More here.

Will gas supplies hold out for evacuations? Gov. Scott is worried and is seeking help

Gas lines near Marlins Park David J. NealGas shortages were becoming so acute in Florida Thursday that Gov. Rick Scott announced the state’s law enforcement would provide an escort to gas trucks and appealed to the federal government and the governors of four other states to help replenish the fuel supplies as roads clogged with traffic out of evacuation zones throughout South Florida.

"We know fuel is important and absolutely devoting every state resource to addressing this,’’ Scott said at a press conference in Hialeah Thursday morning. At an interview on CNN at 1 p.m, he added: “There are lines. There are shortages. It isn’t widespread right now.”

Scott asked the governors of Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina to rescind weight and driver regulation to accelerate the ability of fuel tankers to get into the state. He said that U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has lifted federal regulations to get gas into Florida quickly. Full story here. 

Miami congressman might take family to shelter for Hurricane Irma

Curbelo rubio lnew cmg
@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo lives in Miami's Kendall neighborhood -- not one of the low-lying coastal areas under mandatory evacuation orders for Hurricane Irma.

But the Republican might leave his house voluntarily anyway, for fear that strong winds could endanger his family.

"I am considering going to a shelter," Curbelo said in response to a reporter's question Thursday at the Miami-Dade County emergency operations center. "We do have some tall trees around our house, and given the strength and the magnitude of this storm, I don't feel entirely secure at home -- especially with our two little girls, ages 7 and 5."

Responding to the same question, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said his family is "still trying to debate" what to do though it is not in an evacuation zone, either.

"I'm confident my home will withstand" Irma, Rubio said, noting his West Miami house was built in 2005, after Hurricane Andrew. The 1992 Category 5 monster forced Florida to rewrite its building codes and make them stronger.

"The question is, how will we get in and out and, more importantly, how to get to my mom," added Rubio, who said he's studied 500-year flood maps for the area and found neighboring streets might flood.

Rubio said Irma's projected path, up Florida's east coast, should make residents in evacuation zones wary about trying to drive far.

"If you look at the map of Florida right now," he said, "there's not many places you look at and think, 'That looks like a pretty safe place.'"

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

Football crazy? Evacuees and Gator fans will share I-75 Saturday

TimechangenoonOn a typical fall Saturday in Gainesville, a home football game creates a lot of traffic, but this Saturday will be like no other in the history of Florida.

The University of Florida has decided to play its home football opener Saturday against Northern Colorado. UF moved up the game’s kickoff time from 7:30 p.m. to noon.

In football-crazy Florida, the FSU Seminoles also moved up their home opener to noon Saturday in Tallahassee. But what makes UF unique is its proximity to Interstate 75, the major evacuation route for people fleeing Hurricane Irma from the south. I-75 goes through the heart of Gainesville.

UF’s athletic director and head coach Jim McElwain both emphasized that fans should put safety first, but a columnist for the school newspaper, The Alligator, thinks the university is crazy to play the game.

“I know many of you are stuck in traffic,” Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday during a storm briefing in West Palm Beach. As more people heed state and local evacuation orders, the traffic could only get worse, and Saturday is the last possible day that procrastinators can evacuate before Irma strikes.

UF’s stadium, “The Swamp,” seats about 92,000, and many of them will be getting into their cars to drive home after the game ends late Saturday afternoon. Oh, yes, many will need to fill their cars with gas, too.

Some season ticket holders won’t be there Saturday. On a Gator football Facebook page, Nicki Morris was selling an extra ticket, ”Super cheap!”

Gov. Scott activates more National Guard members for Irma

Hurricane Irma


Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated another 3,000 members of the Florida Army and Air National Guard on Thursday as part of additional preparations for Hurricane Irma, which is poised to hit South Florida this weekend.

Scott began deploying members on Tuesday after he issued a statewide emergency declaration on Monday night. About 1,000 Guard members were already active by the end of Wednesday.

The remaining 3,000 members of the 7,000-member Guard who are not yet activated will report for duty by Friday morning.

More here.

Billionaire political donor Mike Fernandez rips ‘bully’ Speaker Richard Corcoran’s DACA stance

Florida Legislature

via @learyreports

Billionaire Miami businessman Mike Fernandez this morning criticized House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s hardline on DACA.

“We currently have a Speaker of the House in Florida in which the consensus among his peers can be best defined as a bully,” Fernandez said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “This may be the case, but in my humble opinion he truly is an intellectual midget ( or short person to be politically correct). His position on the 32,000 Floridian attending our universities is discriminatory at the very least. It may be legal, but so was slavery and that did not make it right.”

Corcoran praised President Donald Trump’s move to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, saying “anything less would have been a tacit acceptance of President Obama’s backdoor amnesty plan for illegal immigrants.”

It was a break from the stances of two potential GOP rivals for governor, Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala, who said the children of immigrants brought to the country illegally should be protected.

“While Congress has shown little ability to get anything done (think repeal and replace of Obamacare), I just hope they don’t turn the opportunity the president has given them to deal with this illegal immigration problem into their own backdoor amnesty plan.”

Fernandez, who left the GOP over Trump, called Corcoran’s position “horrendous to our economy. President Trump’s action sidestep the issue by passing it off to Congress, but there are real consequences for our nation and the state of Florida if the this giant in his own mind gets his way, as this is not a platform on which Republicans can stand.”

The Times has asked Corcoran for a response.

His full email is below:

A former Head of the Israeli Army, Prime Minister, President and World’s Statesman Shimon Peres once told former Florida Speaker Will Weatherford and I in a private meeting... “Great Leaders Serve, they don’t rule”. On another occasion, part of my annual trip to the Israeli capital he also spoke with the wisdom of a warrior/visionary. I quote...” with as many Palestinians as we have living as our neighbors, the future for our continued prosperity and safety is dependent on a single act, A Respectful handshake”.

As a non politician I have the good fortune to speak my mind without a filter.

We currently have a Speaker of the House in Florida in which the consensus among his peers can be best defined as a bully. This may be the case, but in my humble opinion he truly is an intellectual midget ( or short person to be politically correct). His position on the 32,000 Floridian attending our universities is discriminatory at the very least. It may be legal, but so was slavery and that did not make it right.

Corcoran’s position is horrendous to our economy. ​President Trump’s action sidestep the issue by passing it off to Congress, but there are real consequences for our nation and the state of Florida if the this giant in his own mind gets his way, as this is not a platform on which Republicans can stand.

We can’t remain silent on an anti-economic position, which will increase the price of products and services, eliminates jobs while not creating new ones and position 32,000 Floridian (students in higher education) on the path to deportation. These young people are our future high wage earners and tax payers.

We all know key economic facts:

Every single Dreamer registered with DACA will be subject to deportation, 32,800 of the more than 800,000 Dreamers live in Florida.

In losing so many talented young people from the workforce and academia, Florida’s GDP will experience a loss of $1.5 billion annually.

The United States will lose $460.3 billion in GDP over the next decade as a result of repealing DACA without a legislative solution.

We can find headlines like these in just about most major newspapers,

Wall Street Journal today’s headline:

End of DACA Moves Labor Force in Wrong Direction, Big Employers Say.

Wall Street Journal today’s headline:

Paul Ryan Urges Trump to Keep ‘Dreamers’ Program.

This is the opinion of a former undocumented person who arrived in the great Nation (not in the smoke filled halls of the Capitol but with an M16 in his arms). An immigrant that created over 50,000 jobs in our State and has contributed over $30 million to the Republican causes over the last 15 years. Fir the sake of transparency, I also contributed $3million in the last election in an attempt to stop Trump. I never met Mrs. Clinton and I thought she could wound our Nation but I feared that Trump could mortally wound it.

Republicans, look back and re-evaluate our path. It is not a Republican thesis which we are following, it’s a Trumpist mistake.



September 06, 2017

Miami-Dade to unauthorized immigrants: Don’t fear Hurricane Irma shelters

Florida1 senators lnew cmg

Immigrants in South Florida illegally should not fear deportation if they seek shelter during Hurricane Irma, according to political leaders who urged the undocumented to heed local evacuation orders.

“We don’t ask anybody for their identification,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a briefing late Wednesday from the county’s emergency operations center in Doral. “Everybody who needs shelter in Miami-Dade County is welcome, and you should do so without any fear of any repercussions.”

When Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas late last month, some unauthorized immigrants told aid workers and news reporters they stayed away from public shelters because they were scared federal authorities would inquire about their legal status and detain them. Their concerns were exacerbated when uniformed U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents assisted in the recovery — even though the federal government said repeatedly the agents weren’t acting in any deportation capacity.

To avoid a similar situation in South Florida, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio urged the Department of Homeland Security to explain in advance its role during Hurricane Irma. The agency said Wednesday it “will not conduct non-criminal immigration enforcement operations in the affected area,” though Homeland Security personnel will be deployed to help federal, state and local authorities in the storm’s aftermath.

More here.

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

Miami-Dade orders coastal evacuation ahead of Hurricane Irma

@doug_hanks @PatriciaMazzei

More than 100,000 Miami-Dade residents were ordered to leave their homes on barrier islands and low-lying mainland areas Thursday in preparation for Hurricane Irma, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced Wednesday evening.

Evacuation orders were issued for Miami-Dade’s barrier islands, including Miami Beach and Key Biscayne, and other coastal areas in south Dade and in parts of Miami and areas north. The areas are considered particularly vulnerable to storm surge.

The orders apply to county Zone A, which covers Key Biscayne and coastal areas of Southeast Miami-Dade and north of Miami, and to only the barrier islands of Zone B. The orders take effect at 9 a.m. Thursday.

“Irma remains a strong Category 5 hurricane,” Gimenez said at a news briefing in the county’s emergency center in Doral. “Significant weakening is not expected.”

While Zone B includes Brickell Avenue and other mainland areas, Gimenez limited the order to that zone’s barrier islands, between Biscayne Bay and the ocean. But he warned future orders may be broader and affect more zones, including the rest of Zone B not on the islands.

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Trainor Jr.