GOP lawmaker says Dem got him booted from immigration event

GOP lawmaker says Dem got him booted from immigration event
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats turn on Al Franken Minnesota's largest newspaper calls on Franken to resign Democratic senator predicts Franken will resign Thursday MORE (D-Ill.) threatened to back out of a pro-immigration news conference on Wednesday unless Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) was disinvited, Curbelo told The Hill on Tuesday.

FWD.us, a pro-immigration reform advocacy group led by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, had originally invited Curbelo, a Cuban American lawmaker from Miami, to attend a news conference with Durbin and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-S.C.). The senators are pushing legislation to protect so-called Dreamers, immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

But Curbelo said his office was later told that Durbin had vowed to pull out of the event unless Curbelo’s invitation was rescinded, a charge vehemently denied by Durbin’s office.

“Senator Durbin asked FWD.us to withdraw the invitation for me to partake in tomorrow's press conference, threatening to cancel his own participation if his demands weren't met,” Curbelo told The Hill in an interview.

“I hope this isn't true because although I don't know Sen. Durbin, I believe his intention is to build bipartisan support for Dreamers,” the congressman continued. “Attempting to exclude someone with a long history of supporting Dreamers is petty, counterproductive, and selfish.”

A Durbin spokesman denied that Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, had pressured FWD to disinvite Curbelo.

“No, it’s not true. FWD reached out to us for a press conference on the DREAM Act and that’s what we will be talking about tomorrow,” said Durbin spokesman Ben Marter. “One thing Sen. Durbin has said repeatedly is that he is open to any discussion for how to give permanent legal status to the Dreamers.”

In a statement, FWD said the news conference was always supposed to be focused on the DREAM Act and said the dust-up was the result of a “miscommunication” with Curbelo’s office.

“Other offices were not involved,” said FWD spokesman Peter Boogaard. “We continue to support Congressman Curbelo’s efforts to stand with Dreamers and are incredibly thankful for his leadership.”

Curbelo was still set to attend the Wednesday afternoon news conference as recently as Tuesday afternoon. He tweeted at 11 a.m.: “Look forward to joining @FWD_us & my colleagues from both parties tomorrow to support #Dreamers. They are America's children!”

Two hours later, FWD replied to Curbelo in a tweet: “Thank you Representative @carloslcurbelo for taking action to stand #withDreamers! We're looking forward to tomorrow!”

Durbin and Graham are co-authors of the DREAM Act, which would offer DACA recipients legal permanent status and ultimately American citizenship. 

Curbelo, a top Democratic target in 2018, has not co-sponsored the DREAM Act.

Instead, he has authored an alternative bill to deal with the recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Curbelo’s Recognizing America's Children (RAC) Act is similar to the Dream Act, but would protect a slightly lower number of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Both the Dream Act and the bill from Curbelo would provide a work permit, legal residence and an eventual pathway to citizenship to the Dreamers.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, the RAC Act would immediately protect 938,000 Dreamers, while the current version of the Dream Act would protect 1.5 million.

The press conference flap comes a month after President Trump said he was ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the country illegally as children.

Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a solution for these individuals.

Ali Breland and Rafael Bernal contributed.