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Joe Garcia and the semantics of immigration politics

@PatriciaMazzei

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat, recently pounced on news that incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo backed a fellow GOP congressman who suggested immigrants in the U.S. be tracked like Fed-Ex packages.

"Rep. Comstock: track immigrants like FedEx packages. Yet @repcurbelo gave her $1000 from immigration PAC," Garcia tweeted on June 30.

The post linked to a Miami Herald story about contributions from Curbelo's leadership back -- including one to Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, who said in 2-14 that "Fed-Ex can track packages coming in here all of the time, we can track people who are coming into the country and we can do that right."

Comparing people to shipping packages did not go over well with pro-immigration activists. But it turns out Garcia made a similar reference two years ago -- not to shipping, but to credit cards.

In a local 2014 radio interview with host Grant Stern, Garcia -- then a sitting congressman -- made an analogy to a traveler using his credit card to buy a coconut in a remote area of Thailand. (Aroud the 40-minute mark.)

"American Express finds you, yet we can't find Pedro, when he crosses the border. It's silliness," Garcia said, apparently using a "Pedro" as the stand-in name for a Hispanic immigrant.

Garcia had been talking about the need for immigration reform, but he added he didn't advocate open borders, just better policies.

Asked about Garcia's comment in light of the candidate's shot at Comstock and Curbelo, Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez argued the AmEx reference related to financial instruments the U.S. could use to find trouble immigrants -- though if that's what Garcia meant, he didn't make it explicit in the 2014 interview.

"Unlike the Trump Republicans supported by Carlos Curbelo, Joe Garcia would never compare immigrants to inanimate objects in order to score political points," Hernandez said in a statement. "Joe's comments -- in an interview supporting immigration reform -- addressed the ability of the government to use financial tracking mechanisms, if needed, to bring justice to individuals who are breaking the law."

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