As he concludes his freshman year in Congress representing Miami-Dade’s District 26, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo deserves praise for taking a leadership role on two pressing South Florida challenges, both of them sticky wickets: climate change and Cuban immigration.
By saying that it’s vital for U.S. lawmakers to address climate change, which he says, rightly, could damage Florida’s economy and environment, Mr. Curbelo has gone against the Republican grain.
Last week, Mr. Curbelo and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat who presents the 21st Congressional District, straddling Broward and Palm Beach counties, made history. They registered the first-ever bipartisan climate-change caucus, dubbed the Climate Solutions Caucus.
“We want to focus on the science and the evidence, not the drama,” Mr. Curbelo told the Herald Editorial Board on Monday. He hopes 13 House Republicans who last fall signed on to a resolution calling for action on climate, signaling a breakthrough in the majority’s lockstep position, will join the new caucus.
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“We can’t stop or control climate change, but we can mitigate it,” Mr. Curbelo said. “Sea levels are rising around us, and we ought to do something about it.”
It’s past time for such common-sense, bipartisan thinking.
Over the past two decades, climate change has moved from being a bipartisan concern to a hotly contested, highly politicized issue inside the Beltway. It’s a heated topic tackled by presidential candidates, some of whom have changed their minds on whether climate change is a real threat or hocus pocus.
But those of us in South Florida who have seen water intrusion on our streets during king tides, from the Florida Keys to Palm Beach, know climate change is real.
The congressman addressed another hot potato during his freshman year. Facilitated by the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, some new arrivals receive U.S. government assistance, but then return to the island for visits. Mr. Curbelo filed a bill that creates two tracks: Arriving Cubans could, like immigrants from other countries, file a refugee or asylum claim — and wait years for it to be approved before qualifying for benefits. They could not travel back to Cuba. However, Cubans who opt not to claim refugee status could get a work permit, but no other assistance.
It’s a highly unpopular initiative in some circles locally.
“I’ve been called a traitor,” Mr. Curbelo said. He is anything but. Rather, he is a realist who understands that normalization has changed the U.S.-Cuba relationship and many newer arrivals are exploiting their refugee status.
He’s also had impact on education and transportation initiatives. He successfully pushed for pedestrian safety to be considered in major federal projects, recognizing South Florida streets are among the unsafest.
Up next for Mr. Curbelo is criminal-justice reform; he’s put his John Hancock on four pending bills. A recent visit to a Homestead prison and a sit-down with 25 nonviolent inmates was “an enriching experience,” he said. “I understood immediately all the failures of the criminal-justice system.”
Mr. Curbelo believes there should be a greater investment in rehabilitation programs. We agree. He says that ex-felons who have served their time are still being shunned in the employment market, trapping them in a life of crime. “It’s immoral what we’ve done.”
We hope Mr. Curbelo’s approach to governance is catching in this fractured Congress.