Cuban Immigrant Carlos Giménez to Undocumented U.S. Citizenship Seekers: "Get in Line"

Congressman Carlos Gimenez appears on Fox News to talk about President Joe Biden's "far-left agenda."
Congressman Carlos Gimenez appears on Fox News to talk about President Joe Biden's "far-left agenda." Screenshot via Twitter
Hours before Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Congressman Carlos Giménez and 16 other House Republican freshmen sent the Biden a letter declaring their hopes to "rise above the partisan fray" to work for all Americans.

The letter repeats some of the same calls for "unity" Republicans have made since voting to challenge election results in certain states and surviving the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. But less than one week after sending that letter, Giménez is already appearing on Fox News to talk about how he can't work with the president's "far-left agenda."

Yesterday morning, Giménez told America's Newsroom hosts that he disagreed with Biden's revocation of a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and halt to construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"I still wanna work with the president, but so far in the first week, his agenda is not something I can really say that I'm really happy with," said Giménez, who until his November victory served as mayor of Miami-Dade County.

One of the hosts asked Giménez what Biden should do to "repair the grievances" the congressman laid out. Giménez said he wanted the president to create "policies that benefit the people of America and the people of the United States," mentioning immigration policies.

The congressman said he thinks it's a "mistake" for Biden to propose an eight-year path to citizenship to 11 million people currently living in the U.S. without legal status.

"I can work with [Biden] on bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, giving them work permits, et cetera," he said on Fox. "But in terms of citizenship, they oughta really go back to their country of origin and get in line."

Giménez clarified by adding that he doesn't mean that people ought to be literally made to leave the country, but that "they should get in line and if their number comes up, it comes up and they become citizens of the United States. And if it doesn't, well, they don't become citizens." Giménez's comments drew swift backlash on social media. Many pointed out that for years, Cuban citizens could legally migrate to the U.S. under various programs. The congressman's own parents led prosperous lives in Cuba but left in 1960, shortly after Fidel Castro rose to power, when Giménez and his sister were children.

The Cuban Adjustment Act, signed into law six years after the Giménezes moved to Miami, guarantees Cubans lawful permanent residency after being present in the U.S. for at least one year. Under the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans intercepted at sea were returned to the island or sent to a third country, while those who made it to shore were permitted to stay in the U.S. and benefit from the Cuban Adjustment Act's fast-tracked permanent residency process. Former president Barack Obama repealed the "wet foot, dry foot" policy in 2017.

Critics of Giménez's comments point out that Cubans have benefited from immigration policies denied to other immigrant groups.
In January 2017, when then-President Donald Trump threatened to strip federal funding from "sanctuary cities" that refuse to indefinitely keep immigrants in local jails on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Giménez ordered county jail staff to hold undocumented detainees for ICE for 48 hours. This, despite widespread consensus among legal experts that Trump's order was toothless.

At the time, religious leaders, civil-rights groups, and activists opposed the county's sanctuary-city ban and Giménez's kowtowing to the newly elected president. Four years later, it appears the freshman congressman hasn't lost his taste for the 45th president's nationalist xenophobia.
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Alexi C. Cardona is a former staff writer at Miami New Times.