Miami Republican says Democrat-brokered promises for Dreamers ‘ain’t good enough’

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, will oppose government spending bills until a solution for undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers is found.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, will oppose government spending bills until a solution for undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers is found. mocner@miamiherald.com

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has rebuked her own party and a significant number of Democrats, arguing that a deal negotiated by Senate Democrats to reopen the government didn’t do enough for thousands of undocumented immigrants who could face deportation in less than two months.

Ros-Lehtinen said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to debate and vote on a solution isn’t the same as coming up with an immigration deal, and that the young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” deserve better from Congress. Ros-Lehtinen voted against a short-term spending bill to reopen the government on Monday, the only Republican in Congress to vote No over immigration concerns.

“I’ve heard these promises once and again that we will find a permanent legislative remedy for Dreamers, but a promise ain’t good enough any longer, so that is why I voted no on the [Continuing Resolution]” to reopen the federal government, Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

The congresswoman also mirrored the arguments of Democrats who voted against the bill, saying that McConnell and conservative House Republicans can’t be trusted to pass a solution for Dreamers in the next few weeks.

“We have been duped and strung around enough so Dreamers can’t rely on broken promises any longer,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “I will vote to approve a budget once we fulfill our pledge to these young people who know no other home but the U.S.”

Her comments were similar to those of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, one of 16 Senate Democrats to vote against the deal, which funds the government through Feb. 8.

“Nothing in this legislation gives me any confidence that in three weeks Congress won’t end up exactly where we are today,” Menendez told CNN.

Ros-Lehtinen’s No vote differed from the majority of Senate Democrats, where moderates like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson praised McConnell’s commitment to debate and vote as enough of a concession to reopen the government after it shut down on Friday night.

“Now we have a path forward in which we can work a bipartisan solution that will take care of the Dreamers,” Nelson said. “I think the American people are going to be cheering that this occurred.”

"Dreamers," supporters marched up to the front doors of Senator Marco Rubio's district office in Doral, but were denied access due to the government shutdown and Sen. Rubio's presence in Washington, D.C. to vote on the government shutdown on Monda

While only 16 of 47 Senate Democrats voted against the spending bill, the majority of House Democrats did vote against the bill. Five other House Republicans also voted against the bill with Ros-Lehtinen because they typically disapprove of spending bills without spending cuts attached.

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who previously joined Ros-Lehtinen to vote against short-term spending bills in recent months, is now on board if Republicans hold a debate and vote on a Dreamer solution. He voted in favor of Monday’s spending bill to reopen the government along with 45 House Democrats.

“Today’s statement by the Majority Leader [Mitch McConnell] was significant because Leadership has made a very public commitment the process will move forward in the coming weeks,” Curbelo spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said. “That said, if Feb. 8 comes around and that commitment has not been upheld, the Congressman is prepared to reconsider his support.”

Ros-Lehtinen is not running for reelection in 2018, though she represents the most Democratic-leaning district in the country currently held by a Republican. She is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump and has signed on to multiple legislative solutions for Dreamers before an Obama-era executive order rescinded by Trump expires in March.

South Florida dreamers talk about their future as Congress decides their fate on Jan. 17, 2017.

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty