For months, Miami Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo has insisted that any federal budget bill must include help for the millions of Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to America as children — before their legal protection under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) plan ends early next month.
"Dreamers are running out of time," Curbelo told the Miami Herald January 9. For weeks, Curbelo stuck by his guns, voting repeatedly against temporary budget measures without DACA fixes and insisting it was time for "leaders of both parties to start taking this issue seriously so we can give these immigrants, and those counting on them, the peace of mind to continue giving back to their communities."
Well, we're now only weeks away from DACA's March 5 expiration date and there's still no help for Dreamers. But early this morning, Curbelo toed the GOP line anyway and voted for a $300 billion budget deal that averts another federal shutdown but includes nothing to protect DACA recipients. The budget deal passed 240-186, and President Trump is expected to sign it.
So why did Curbelo abandon his principled stand to help the tens of thousands of Dreamers in his South Florida district? Because, he says, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan made him a very serious promise that they would fix DACA outside of the budget deal.
Ryan "delivered his strongest commitment yet that legislation will be considered on the floor of the House" to protect Dreamers, Curbelo said, pointing to Ryan's pledge to pass a new deal for Dreamers that "the president will sign."
Oh, Carlos. You got played, son.
Ryan has about as much control over the Republican Party at this point as Hillary Clinton has. And it's clear that even Donald Trump's fast-food-addled brain has no clue what he will or won't do from moment to moment. So Ryan's promise to not only deliver a DACA vote but also a deal that Trump will sign off on is as safe as a Brazilian butt-lift surgery in a Hialeah strip mall.
United We Dream, the biggest advocacy group working toward a DACA fix, blasted Curbelo's flip-flop:
.@RepCurbelo has decided to turn his back on his community and vote on a spending bill that does not contain a #DreamActNow— United We Dream (#DreamActNow: 478-488-8059) (@UNITEDWEDREAM) February 9, 2018
Florida Leaders are here calling you out - your actions do not show you stand with us. pic.twitter.com/C7sOUylEgf
Curbelo responded by lashing out at the advocates, tweeting that "this group does so much damage to the #Dreamer cause. They make it a priority to attack those who support them the most."
(Fact check: Hundreds of United We Dream activists have been arrested while protesting, and many have put their own legal immigration status at grave risk by bravely speaking up in public for their cause. And Curbelo would likely give exactly zero shits about the issue if he weren't the most at-risk Republican in Congress.)
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As local activist Tomas Kennedy pointed out, in December Curbelo said flat-out that he wouldn't "vote for (a) spending bill past Dec. 31 until DACA issue is resolved." Not until "Paul Ryan makes a really convincing promise that he'll cook up a fix." Curbelo lied.
There's no reason Curbelo couldn't have stuck to his guns and continued to refuse to back a bill that didn't help Dreamers. His Republican colleague from Miami, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, voted no on the budget bill this morning for exactly that reason. (All of Miami's Democratic reps also voted against the deal.)
But whether because of political expediency or because he trusts Paul Ryan more than any sane human being ever should, Curbelo buckled.
Now Dreamers are on the clock. And Curbelo better have March 5 circled on his calendar and a daily plan to harass the House majority leader to follow through on one of his most dubious promises yet.