Rene Garcia

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.

Trump denies vulgar comments about Haiti and Africa (plus reax)

1600px-LodalenPresident Donald Trump took to Twitter this morning to deny reports that he called Haiti, El Salvador and Africa “shithole countries” during a bipartisan White House meeting yesterday focused on immigration reform.

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!” Trump (@realDonaldTrump) tweeted at 7:28 a.m.

According to several news outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Trump reportedly questioned why the United States should accept immigrants from “s—hole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and countries in Africa.

Here’s an excerpt from the LA Times story:

“What do we want Haitians here for?” the president asked, according to the people briefed. “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?”

The president added: “We should have people from places like Norway.”

Trump’s alleged comments sent Twitter ablaze and stuffed email in-boxes with reactions from politicos and others blasting the president, who recently decided to do away with Temporary Protected Status for Haitians displaced by a devastating earthquake that ravaged the island nation in 2010.

Here’s a selection of reactions, topped by our pick for the most entertaining of the lot.

Michael Calderin, Vice-President of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, released a statement late last night, taking a swipe at the president’s Palm Beach estate, Mar-A-Lago:

It may come as some surprise that the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida understands President Trump’s recent inflammatory comment.

Let us provide some context. After all, as Floridians, we have been living in the presence of a shithole for years. And the disgust has grown exponentially over the last year, particularly as it was occupied for nearly a quarter of 2017 by the most rancid, foul-mouthed person known around the world.

We urge the residents of Palm Beach County to strongly object to the shitholes that are Mar-a-Lago, its owner, and his guests. With the irreversible damage being caused, we can only hope there are grounds for legal action to rid this blight from our otherwise beautiful land.

Trump’s alleged comments drew a rebuke from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who’s had a longtime bromance with the part-time Florida man.

“If this report is true, it is absolutely wrong to say or think this. I do not think this way, nor do I agree with this kind of sentiment. I represent Florida, and we are an amazing melting pot where over 250 languages are spoken,” Scott said in a statement.

Scott’s reaction came in response to a press release from state Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat who was born in Haiti, calling on the governor to denounce Scott.

Other Florida politicos piled on, blasting the president for dissing Haiti. Florida is home to more Haitian emigres than any other state in the nation.

“As an American, I apologize for the incentive, disparaging remarks made by our President. Eight years ago today well over 100,000 souls were lost in Haiti to a massive earthquake. My prayers are with you all & I thank you for your continued contributions to our country” — Tweet from state Sen. René Garcia, a Hialeah Republican running for Congress.

This tweet from U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtenin, another Republican from Miami-Dade County:

“Told @CBSMiami: no country deserves to be called a “shithole.” The #USA stands for inclusion and opportunity, not condescension. Someone should tell @POTUS he’s the President and encourage him to start acting like it.” — @RosLehtenin at 10:21 p.m. Thursday.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward County Democrat, issued this statement issued last night:

“Trump’s vile comments are outrageous, unacceptable and continue a disturbing pattern of racist remarks. He repeatedly sews seeds of racism which foment horrendous, discriminatory actions. No American can be proud of a President who speaks this way. Trump’s Republican colleagues must denounce his comments and stand up against bigotry and intolerance or be guilty of sanctioning them.”

And from the NAACP:

“As our nation fights to move forward, our President falls deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of racism and xenophobia. The United States’ position as a moral leader throughout the world has been thoroughly damaged by the continuous lowbrow, callous and unfiltered racism repeatedly espoused by President Trump.  His decision to use profanity to describe African, Central American and Caribbean countries is not only a low mark for this president, it is a low point for our nation. This President’s failure to grasp simple ideas of inclusion and maturity is an open sore on our democracy that continues to fester. It is clear that the president wants to return America to its ugly past of white supremacy where immigration laws as well as all laws of society only favored individuals from European nations and European ancestry. In fact, the President himself benefitted from those racially biased laws when his ancestors immigrated to this nation. Yet today, he wants to force the American public to pay billions to build a wall to block off our southern neighbors in exchange for the return of protections for DACA that were already guaranteed to immigrants before he came to office. As we head into 49th NAACP Image Awards being held on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Holiday for the first time to honor his legacy, we realize that the Bull Connor of our day is none other than the President of our nation. As King fought then, we fight today against those seeking to implement slicker and newer forms of racial segregation.

We’ll be back later with reaction to Trump’s denial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rene Garcia on mental health & substance abuse: “Americans are hurting”

The day after a mass shooting in Texas, a Florida state senator promised on Monday to be “more vocal” about the state’s mental health and substance abuse needs.

Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee Chairman Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, said legislators need to focus on more than just a partisan debate over gun control.

“It’s far too easy for us to go to our corners and say we either need more gun control or less gun controls. But the reality is Americans are hurting,’’ Garcia said.  “And if we look at the common denominator for most of these shootings, it’s always lack of a mental health diagnosis or someone who did not receive mental health treatment. We can no longer move on in society until we start addressing this fundamental issue and stop ignoring it.”

Garcia’s committee oversees the agencies responsible for providing mental health and substance abuse services in the state.

Speaking to an audience of lobbyists and interested parties, Garcia asked them to bring him recommendations and suggestions on improvements that can be made.  But he warned them against asking the Legislature simply for more money, saying the Senate “gets it” that there is additional need for residential treatment beds.

Now is the time “to figure out what the next step  is,” Garcia said.

“Whether it’s dealing with  managed care companies, more mandates or less mandates, making sure that we stop over-prescribing medications to our citizens, whatever the case may be. I just don’t want it to be all about the money situation,” he said.

Armed with an assault-style rifle and a handgun, 26-year-old-Devin Patrick Kelley on Sunday opened fired inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 churchgoers and injuring 20 others. Police said the shooting was related to a domestic dispute and that it wasn’t motivated by race or religion.

By Christine Sexton.