The Corner

Politics & Policy

GOP Rep. Curbelo Could’ve Helped Hispanic Caucus Push Bipartisan DACA Deal

Earlier this month, the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) sent a letter to House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, urging them to provide a permanent fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

But last November, the caucus made a decision that served to undermine bipartisan consensus on DACA — it excluded Florida representative Carlos Curbelo from its ranks because he’s a Republican. Curbelo, born in Miami to two Cuban exiles who fled to the U.S., is both a conservative Republican and a supporter of DACA.

Late last year, the congressman said he wouldn’t support any spending bill unless Congress also found a way to permanently protect individuals in the DACA program. Having him in the caucus would’ve been a nice illustration of the fact that there is bipartisan support among Hispanic representatives for a DACA deal.

In fact, Curbelo’s office tells National Review via email that the congressman fully supports the text of the CHC’s January letter. “The congressman agrees with the sentiment of the letter wholeheartedly, however, it is unfortunate some of the signers are individuals who promote bigotry and division and are committed to the segregation of America’s Hispanic community,” said Curbelo’s spokesperson, Joanna Rodriguez. “It’s ridiculous they can call for compassion and inclusion with a straight face.”

It is worth noting, too, that the CHC’s letter was sent not on official stationery but on political letterhead, despite the group’s status as an official organization that uses taxpayer dollars. The Congressional Black Caucus, for example, uses its own official stationery for similar purposes. The CHC’s decision not to do so suggests that the group intends to use this letter about DACA for political purposes, whether through a PAC or for members’ re-election campaigns.

This move is more evidence that the CHC exists primarily to further its members’ political careers rather than actually represent the needs of Hispanic Americans. For example, news broke today that the CHC’s political arm, BOLD PAC, will back Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Curbelo’s Democratic challenger in Florida’s 26th congressional district.

When the group rejected Curbelo last November, its chairwoman, representative Michelle Lujan Grisham admitted it was because the group wants to oppose President Trump, and having a Republican in the group would make it more difficult to do so. “We have strategies about the White House and we have strategies about those committees and we have strategies about who we are working on and leveraging with and [having a GOP member] creates an environment where we stop having strategic discussions,” Lujan Grisham told reporters at the time.

This obvious ideological intransigence reveals that the group doesn’t actually intend to achieve tangible political change for its supposed constituency, or at least that any allies must fully embrace anti-Trump progressivism. Had the members of the CHC chosen to allow diversity within its ranks — and, as a result, authentic representation of Hispanic Americans — rather than exclude Curbelo due to hyperpartisanship, their case in support of DACA would’ve been truly bipartisan, and thus much stronger.

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