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Florida Congressional Delegation Continues to Split Over Immigration Reform Bill

July 21, 2013 - 6:00pm

With Republicans who control the U.S. House clearly unenthused about the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last month, the Florida delegation continues to divide on the issue.

Crafted by The Gang of Eight which includes U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the immigration bills prospects in the House remain slim, especially as Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he will only allow it the floor if a majority of the Republican caucus agrees to support the bill. Based on the Senate vote, where less than a third of Republicans supported the bill, conservatives should be able to kill the bill in the House.

However, among Republicans in the Florida delegation in the House, there is some division, as the likes of U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis oppose the bill while U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart support it.

Ros-Lehtinen teamed up with other congressmen to release a statement from the Latino-Jewish Congressional (LJC) Caucus supporting immigration reform. The LJC Caucus called for a viable and efficient pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants," reforming the current system and supporting smart, effective and humane enforcement measures that bolster national and border security.

Ros-Lehtinen teamed up with her three co-chairs of the caucus -- Democrats U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida -- to issue a statement on Monday.

With a unique historical partnership and common immigrant experience, the Latino and Jewish communities also share values of liberty, justice, and equal rights, Ros-Lehtinen said. Because of that, I am proud to join my colleagues of the Jewish-Latino Congressional Caucus in calling for a reform to our nations immigration laws that is consistent with our American principles. We are a nation of laws, and we are also a nation based on opportunity and fairness for all. I am hopeful that my colleagues in the House can keep these principles in mind as we work together to honor the rule of law and strengthen our families and our communities.

Comprehensive immigration reform should be a no-brainer, said Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. With the recent passage of the Senates immigration bill, the onus is now on us to fix our nations broken immigration system. We must never forget that we are a nation built on the principles of freedom -- a place where those seeking a better life can have one if they work hard and contribute to their communities. We stand united in our efforts to pass fair and secure immigration reform in order to preserve the American dream.

In the meantime, a Space Coast Republican is showing signs of opposing the bill. U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., is urging his colleagues in the House and voters across the nation to read the 1,200-page immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last month.

The first step in holding government accountable is making it more transparent, Posey said in a statement last week. You can do that by reading the legislation before it becomes law.

My experience has been that these too big to read bills are loaded with wasteful spending and loopholes that grow the size of government and limit freedoms of law-abiding citizens, Posey added.

In the meantime Boehner is winning praise from conservatives across the nation -- including one who wielded the gavel as House speaker -- for not pushing the Senate bill.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich was outflanked on his right by Mitt Romney on immigration during the primaries. But Gingrich had harsh words for the Senate bill. In an email sent out late Friday, Gingrich praised House conservatives for standing up against the Senate bill.

Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor deserve our thanks for having the courage to do the right thing on immigration reform. They are insisting that the legislative process be allowed to improve and fix a badly flawed Senate bill, Gingrich wrote. The House Republican position is exactly right, but it is going to come under attack from every establishment figure who wants a conservative surrender on immigration. House Republicans need to adopt a disciplined, positive answer whenever asked about immigration.

I am opposed to massive bills, Gingrich added. No one understands all the details. They usually become massive by including a lot of special-interest provisions to buy votes. They are often internally contradictory. They usually represent senatorial staff drafting with only vague oversight from elected officials. They often promise many things in vague language and have no effective enforcement mechanisms. It would be far better to pass a series of relatively small, understandable bills written in subcommittee and committee and amended on the floor. In the process of steady incremental reform, each bill could be studied and understood in its own right. Of course, this would require the Senate to consider individual improvements instead of a single gigantic bill.

Gingrich did note that House Republicans needed a better plan on messaging.

House Republicans currently have a problem because they are consistently put in the position of explaining why they are against the Senate bill and then having opposition to the Senate bill interpreted as opposition to immigrants, he wrote. This is a very self-destructive communications strategy and House Republicans need to adopt a new communications strategy on immigration reform. House Republicans have a number of positive things they are for. They should answer every question on immigration by first listing two or three things they want to pass.

Gingrich went on to praise a number of bills passed in the House mandating employers' use of E-Verify, reforming guest worker programs and increasing border security.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at 904-521-3722.

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