With more and more Hispanics being able to voice the opinions at the ballot box this election cycle, the issue of illegal immigration reform continues to drive the political discussion around the country.
During the first debate in Florida’s Hispanic-heavy 26 congressional district between Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) and former Rep. Joe Garcia (D), the issue was a main focus of the night.
The argument can clearly be made that both Curbelo and Garcia support “comprehensive immigration reform” or a pathway to citizenship. Pro-legal immigration purists call it amnesty for illegal immigrants.
While the two men agree on many aspects of the immigration reform issue, there are some subtle and some glaring differences between the two.
Curbelo believes that Americans have the “responsibility to secure the border” to insure “border integrity,” and that visa reform is needed because of all of the overstays that occur from those who first enter the country legally, but then never leave.
A guest worker program is also in the mix for Curbelo for those looking to immigrate and contribute while residing in the U.S. Those already here working should also be afforded the opportunity to receive an “earned path to citizenship.”
Garcia would like to see a more lenient approach to immigration, and supports presidential executive orders to get immigration reform done. Curbelo opposes executive fiats like President Obama’s “Dreamer” executive order, Garcia supports such measures.
Garcia hit Curbelo by trying to tie him to Republican leadership’s opposition to DACA, or the “Dream Act.” Even though Curbelo was not in the House of Representatives, Garcia asserted that Curbelo supported his party’s leadership when they thwart the passing of this bill, prompted Obama to unilaterally take on the issue.
Curbelo countered Garcia by saying that he has fought his fellow Republicans in the House who opposed comprehensive immigration reform, and would continue to press legislation that would grant that earned pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants he wants.
Conservative Republicans in both chambers of Congress did make sure comprehensive immigration reform failed, but it hasn’t always been the GOP who have set up road blocks for the legislation.
As Curbelo reminds us all, back in 2006 President George W. Bush pushed bipartisan-supported immigration reform legislation, but both Democrats and Republicans in the Democratic-controlled Congress “conspired to kill” the legislation.
Fast forward to 2013. President Obama had a 60 vote majority in the Senate but failed to get that year’s Senate “Gang of 8” immigration legislation passed. Curbelo says that the reason why the measure did not pass was because Democrats wanted to continue “politicizing this issue.”
Garcia made Curbelo’s case about how Congress was not able to get immigration reform done, saying that “he (Curbelo) knows Congress is dysfunctional and will not pass legislation.”
Both men stated that “The Wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border was unnecessary and too expensive to build.
Remember when thousands of children from Mexico and central America miraculously showed up at the southern border a couple years back?
Garcia pointed out that Curbelo wanted those children deported. Curbelo responded to Garcia’s accusation by saying that he didn’t know what could have been done with those children that had not yet crossed the border, because it was the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Mexican government to tend to them.
Curbelo added that those that did crossover, were allowed to stay in the U.S., and that those that did not have a legitimate asylum case “should have been returned to their home countries.”
We asked Garcia if he could state any differences between him and his opponent when it came to the issue of immigration reform. Garcia avoided the question, turning his back to the camera.