immigration

Florida lawmakers seek aid for Puerto Rican refugees facing homelessness

puerto-rico-26990_1280U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, joined by a handful of Florida congressmen, are asking FEMA to extend temporary housing assistance to displaced Puerto Ricans seeking shelter in the Sunshine State.

The Florida lawmakers sent a letter today to FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, after FEMA officials told federal lawmakers they plan to cut off Transitional Shelter Assistance, or TSA, to more than 1,600 refugees — including 600 in Florida — as soon as Friday.

The Puerto Rican residents, who are U.S. citizens, fled after Hurricane Maria left the island in tatters.

“At a minimum, the deadline for TSA should coincide with the end of the school year for mainland states,” the lawmakers wrote in Wednesday’s letter. “After Hurricane Maria devastated the island, more than 10,000 students from Puerto Rico enrolled in Florida schools. These children have already had their lives and educational experiences disrupted by a devastating storm and deserve the opportunity to complete their school year.”

The letter was sent on the same day power reportedly went down throughout the island, where before the latest outage more than 50,000 people remained without electricity following the storm six months ago.

From the press release:

FEMA’s TSA program pays hotel owners to provide hotel rooms to displaced victims of a storm. Once FEMA decides it will no longer provide a displaced family with TSA benefits, hotel owners will often evict them from their property.

With some parts of Florida already experiencing a shortage of affordable housing due, in part, to a sudden influx of displaced Puerto Ricans living there since the storm, these sudden evictions could leave some families – who are still unable to return home to Puerto Rico – with nowhere to live.

In addition to Nelson and Rubio, the letter sent today urging FEMA to continue providing assistance to these families was signed by Reps. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Dennis Ross (R-FL) and Darren Soto (D-FL).

 

¡Queremos nuestras boletas!

A handful of Democratic state legislators are asking Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, to make sure that every county has bilingual ballots on hand during the upcoming election season.

The lawmakers, including Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando, warned Detzner that “failure to accommodate Florida’s large influx of Spanish-speaking American citizens” from Puerto Rico could violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

It’s unknown exactly how many Puerto Ricans sought refuge in Florida following Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the island in September and left tens of thousands of island dwellers without power even now — six months after the storm.

“Florida is home to over 20 million individuals and more than 4 million of them are of Hispanic or Latino origin,” Torres, who is of Puerto Rican descent, wrote to Detzner. “Additionally, with the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico, there are an additional 300,000 American citizens who are eligible to vote in this upcoming election cycle.  Providing election information and ballots in Spanish-language are essential for some qualified electors to participate in the 2018 Florida elections process.”

Elections officials in more than a dozen counties said they aren’t going to provide ballots in Spanish, according to the release issued by the Senate Minority Office today. That may put them at odds with Gov. Rick Scott, who’s running for the U.S. Senate and has gone out of his way to court the Puerto Rican community, in Florida and on the island.

“Florida has a long history of failing to accommodate citizens whose native language may be other than English,” Torres said in the release. “With more than 4 million Hispanics now living in Florida, there is no excuse for not providing election services to citizens in the language with which they feel most confident.”

More from the Senate Minority Office press release today:

The letter, signed by Senators Torres, Annette Taddeo, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Linda Stewart, and Representatives Robert Asencio, John Cortes, Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Amy Mercado, follows efforts last week by several Hispanic and civil right organizations, including Demos and Latino Justice, calling for 13 of Florida’s 67 Supervisor of Election offices who are not currently supplying election materials and information in Spanish-language format to do so under requirements of the Federal Voting Rights Act. Their letter similarly asserts that under Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, bilingual ballots, election materials and poll worker assistance should be provided to America citizens whose primary language is Spanish.

The lawmakers are seeking reassurances that federal law will be obeyed.

“We are requesting that you respond to the allegations that some Supervisor of Elections offices may be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act by failing to provide required Spanish-language elections materials.  We further request you outline any plans your office has to ensure that no qualified electors are discouraged from exercising their Constitutional rights to participate in the 2018 election due to a failure of the local Supervisor of Elections to provide this information,” they wrote.

 

 

Left out of immigration debate, Levine takes out his checkbook

In a one-two advertising punch, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is taking on both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, lashing them for promoting hate and intolerance.

The former Miami Beach mayor’s campaign is launching a one-week $250,000 buy in Florida for a 30-second television ad that slams Corcoran for “broadcasting a message of hate,” referring to the Republican House speaker’s ad on “sanctuary cities” and a shooting involving an undocumented immigrant.

Levine’s camp announced the ad buy a day before Corcoran is scheduled to debate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat facing off against Levine in a primary later this year.

“I have zero tolerance for intolerance. Speaker Richard Corcoran is attempting to divide our state and our country by attacking and bullying those who do not look like him, on a cynical belief that this will propel his campaign for governor,” Levine said in a statement. “Those are the qualities of a bully, not a leader.”

In a more unusual move, Levine’s campaign is also doing a $20,000 targeted cable buy for the ad in Washington, D.C., running on the Fox News and CNN channels, aiming at Trump.

“I want President Trump to know that his efforts to divide us through intolerance is intolerable, and the people of Florida and this country stand united against his divisive rhetoric and policies,” Levine said in a statement.

Political consultant Christian Ulvert, senior advisor to Levine’s campaign, told reporters Monday morning the campaign is going to keep up an “aggressive push” on digital media as well.

“We are going to continue to do that to make sure that this type of race-bating by the speaker is rebutted directly with Floridians and they hear a different message from our campaign, one of respect and inclusion,” Ulvert said.

Here’s the transcript of the ad, which is also running Spanish:

Levine: In Washington these days, they’re taking shots at immigrants who’ve devoted their lives to this country.

Levine: Now one Tallahassee politician is broadcasting a message of hate aimed at every man, woman and child that doesn’t look like him.

Levine: It’s bad enough we hear this from a President who bullies for a living. What’s worse are those who encourage it.

Levine: I want Florida to show America that we won’t be threatened by anyone, because we believe in everyone.

Announcer: Philip Levine for Governor.

— By Lloyd Dunkelberger

Corcoran clan yawns while speaker crows

We’re not even sure where to begin.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran last video — pushed out by his political committee, Watchdog PAC — erased any remaining doubts for many about whether the Land O’ Lakes Republican is running statewide.

The ad was widely criticized for using scare tactics to promote one of the conservative leader’s top issues — banning so-called “sanctuary cities” in Florida.

Followers of Corcoran on Twitter may be even more certain about the speaker’s future as a gubernatorial candidate after this football-themed video posted on social media yesterday.

In the tongue-in-cheek video, Corcoran, his wife and their six children are huddled while Corcoran, apparently the team captain, tries to pump them up.

But his conservative cheerleading prompts eye rolls and complaints from his family members, who may be less leery of criticizing their dad/husband than GOP members of the House.

Here’s the beginning of the video:

“I know we’re down, but remember when we took on ethics reform?” Corcoran says in the huddle.

“Dad, stop already,” his young daughter gripes, drawing out the word “Dad” into three syllables.

But, not surprisingly, he doesn’t.

“Or when we took on the liberal special interests, and we cut taxes and spending?”

Another Corcoran kid hangs his head.

“We even took tax dollars from Pitbull!” Corcoran cheerfully boasts.

“But, Dad, I like Pitbull,” one of the Corcoran clan complains, as orchestra music swells in the background.

“Yeah, but he doesn’t deserve our tax dollars. It’s about doing, and not talking,” the speaker replies, prompting one of his kids to urge him to talk less and throw the ball.

The video ends as Corcoran asks, “What’s the greatest threat to your freedom and liberty?”

To which they despondently respond, “Big government and big corporations,” as they walk off the field.

 

 

 

 

 

Corcoran anti-sanctuary state video: “race-baiting” or simply red meat?

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee dropped a new video Monday that plays up his conservative creds, immigration-style.

The 30-second screed, entitled “Preventable,” dishes up a serving of GOP red meat by excoriating “sanctuary cities.”

The campaign-ish video might put to rest any (remaining) questions about whether the the Land O’ Lakes Republican intends to run for governor.

The video opens by alluding to the 2015 killing of Kathryn Steinle along Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco by depicting a bearded man in a hoodie pointing and firing a handgun at a woman walking the sidewalk of a suburban community.

A voice-over by Corcoran states: “A young woman, gunned down by an illegal immigrant who should’ve been deported but was protected by a sanctuary city.”

The video than fades to Corcoran, who is in his final House term and has said he’s waiting until after the Legislative session to make an announcement regarding his political future, who personalizes Steinle’s story.

When he heard of Steinle’s death, “I thought about my own daughter Kate,” Corcoran, a father of six, says.

“Incredibly, some Tallahassee politicians want to make Florida a sanctuary state,” a seemingly incredulous Corcoran, shown with his arm draped around Kate’s shoulders, says. “On my watch, Florida will never be a sanctuary state.”

The Republican-dominated House voted 71-35 on Jan. 12 in favor of a measure (HB 9) that would ban “sanctuary cities’ in the state. A similar version in the Senate (SB 308) has its first appearance before the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Worth noting: A jury last month found Jose Ines Garcia Zanate not guilty of second-degree murder charges in Steinle’s death. Garcia Zanate said he found the gun on the pier and that it accidentally went off. Authorities confirmed the bullet ricocheted off the ground before striking Steinle.

The video drew  strong rebuke from the campaign of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat running for governor.

Gillum’s campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan, who called the video “race-baiting,” said it epitomizes “everything that’s wrong with politics today.”

“In the age of Trump, Corcoran is vilifying immigrants,” Burgan said in a press release. “It’s a vile ad that seeks to divide us against one another, and the Speaker ought to be ashamed of himself. Mayor Gillum is running a substantive, progressive campaign on the issues facing everyday Floridians, and we encourage the Speaker to do the same when he finally joins the race.”

 

By Dara Kam and  Jim Turner.

Bipartisan passion for Dreamers

IMG_2516Tallahassee insiders have long joked that there’s a dumpster outside of the nation’s Capitol reserved for memorials passed the state Legislature.

But that didn’t stop Florida state Sen. René García, a Hialeah Republican who was born in Cuba, from making an impassioned plea to Congress to do something to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The Obama-era policy protects from deportation individuals who were brought, as children, to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

President Donald Trump announced in December he was terminating the policy, which could put 800,000 DACA recipients in danger of deportation.

Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Haitian-born Miami Democrat, is sponsoring a memorial (SB 882), which sends a message to Congress to do something to protect the hundreds of thousands of children who entered the country when they were kids.

Tuesday’s debate about the memorial came amid discussions in Washington about immigration reform, and raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents throughout the country, including in Florida.

“Why send them back to a country that they have never known? Would we be having this discussion if the kids came from Norway or a similar country where the inhabitants are mostly white?” Campbell, said, referring to Trump’s reported characterization of her homeland and African countries as “shitholes.” Trump allegedly said the U.S. should welcome more immigrants from nations like Norway.

Garcia, who is running for Congress, weighed in after the committee heard from supporters of the memorial, including a handful of foreign-born students advocating on behalf of their DACA-eligible friends.

Patrick Ariel Sabillon said he moved to Texas to be with his father after “multiple dead bodies were found in my elementary school” in Nicaragua.

“I can’t explain to you guys the anxiety, the sadness, the fear and the anger that the immigration crackdown has brought to our communities,” Sabillon, a 20-year-old Florida State University student, said. “People are worried about going to the market.”

Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, said he thought it was “inappropriate” to consider the memorial while Congress is debating the issue.

But García said that’s exactly why the Legislature needed to send Congress a strong message of support for Dreamers, who, he said, are exactly the kind of immigrants the nation wants.

“You went to school. You did your part. You did your job. You stayed out of trouble . and yet now, because of politics, you (face the) potential of being deported,” he said before the committee’s 3-2 vote in favor of the proposal. Broxson and Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, voted against the measure.

“The Dreamers are those that understand what it is to be an American. The Dreamers are the ones that are dreaming to have a better life … not only for their families, but for their communities. That’s why it is so critical that we send this message back. That’s why it’s so important that we say stop. Stop with the Democrats, with the Republicans.”

Congress to has to act, García said.

“Can President Trump sign an executive order? Absolutely… But it has to be Congress that has the intestinal fortitude, Democrats and Republicans … and put aside the next election cycle and fix it once and for all.”

It’s unlikely the House will approve a similar measure. The chamber on Friday passed a controversial plan that would ban “sanctuary” cities in the state.

Black lawmakers condemn Trump’s alleged “s—hole countries” comment

image1(1)A host of legislative Democrats joined together Friday morning, condemning alleged comments by President Donald Trump, in which he reportedly questioned why the United States should accept immigrants from “s—hole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and countries in Africa.

During a news conference in the Capitol this morning, members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus also called on Governor Rick Scott to take an even stronger stance in his rebuke of the president.

“We are appealing to all elected officials, to stand united with us in our demand for an open apology from President Trump to the American people. We are a nation of immigrants,” state Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat who was born in Haiti, said at the presser, adding that Trump’s remarks reeked of racism.

According to numerous reports, the president also suggested that the U.S. should welcome more immigrants from countries like Norway.

“It appears President Trump does not have an issue with immigrants. He has an issue with immigrants of color,” Campbell said.

The event took place hours after early morning tweets from the president, in which he denied making the remarks. Trump, however, did not specify what he said at Thursday’s White House meeting centered on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era policy that focused on children who are brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents or guardians.

“Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!” the president tweeted.

Late Thursday, Scott released a statement calling Trump’s remarks wrong after Campbell called on the governor to denounce his pal Trump’s alleged comments.

Florida is home to more Haitians than any other state, and Trump’s decision to end temporary protective status for Haitians could affect nearly 30,000 Haitians now residing in the Sunshine State.

Sen. Perry Thurston, chairman of the black caucus, called Trump an “ignorant bigot.”

“He’s embarrassing and he’s a disgrace to the presidency,” Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said. “We understand Donald Trump, believe me. We will stand with our brothers and sisters from Haiti, African and all other bleephole countries in fighting Trump’s racist views that creep into his policies.”

The outcry over the president’s remarks comes just days before the Monday holiday celebrating the late civil rights icon, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Former Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat and civil rights leader, said that young people need to understand that the civil rights fight isn’t over.

“You might be living good and making good money, but baby nothing has changed in that regard. It’s time to demand respect, and demand that the people we elect stand up beside us and with us, and respect us,” Joyner said.