Durbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub

Durbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems mull big changes after Brazile bombshell After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program MORE (D-Ill.) on Wednesday said he wasn't involved in a group's decision to disinvite Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) from an event on the Dream Act.

"I didn't invite anybody to this event, and I didn't disinvite anybody to this event. The only thing we were told is this was a rally for sponsors of the Dream Act, and he's not a sponsor of the Dream Act," Durbin said.

"The organization that put it together can tell you how he was invited or not invited, I had nothing to do with it. Nothing, underline nothing," he said. 

Durbin introduced the Dream Act with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCNN to air sexual harassment Town Hall featuring Gretchen Carlson, Anita Hill Trump wrestles with handling American enemy combatants Flake: Trump's call for DOJ to probe Democrats 'not normal' MORE (R-S.C.) earlier this year. The bill would provide work permits and a pathway to citizenship for people brought to the United States illegally as children.

Wednesday's event featured Durbin, Graham and nearly 150 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era program canceled by President Trump last month.

The event was organized by FWD.us, a progressive immigration advocacy organization co-founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Curbelo on Tuesday told The Hill he had been disinvited from the event and blamed Durbin, saying the senator had threatened to back out if the Florida congressman was allowed to attend.

Peter Boogard, communications director for FWD.us, told The Hill the confusion regarding Curbelo's invitation had been a mix-up, adding that neither Durbin nor his office had anything to do with the apparent snub.

"We love Congressman Curbelo and what he stands for," Boogard said.

But Curbelo wasn't buying it.

"There was no mix-up," he said. 

"I was invited to come and then, because Sen. Durbin and his office weighed in, I was asked not to come, but I said, 'I'm gonna come. I don't have to speak but I'm going to support these young people because I'm all in for this cause and I'm working hard in the House to build support for this cause,' " said Curbelo at the rally, where he stood in the audience.

According to emails reviewed by The Hill, Curbelo was invited Monday to take part in the news conference Wednesday, billed as a "Dreamer fly-in" rather than as a press conference on the Dream Act.

Still, both Durbin and Curbelo downplayed the incident, saying the protection of Dreamers is the priority.

"Petty politics is our worst enemy, and the only thing that could derail this. We know that there's bipartisan support in Congress for a solution for these young people," Curbelo said.

"To me it doesn't matter which one it is. There are numerous bills in the Congress. I'll be willing to support all of them. I happen to have filed the first one in the House earlier this year, but my goal is to solve this for these young people," he added.

Democrats have made Curbelo one of their top targets for the 2018 elections, but he's also an important ally in the immigration fight.

Durbin admitted House Republicans would be crucial in the fight to enact the Dream Act or any similar measure. Still, he emphasized his preference for the Graham-Durbin bill, which would protect about 2 million people.

"I know the power of the Speaker in the House and of the Rules Committee, and if they want to stop it, there are ways to do it," Durbin said.

"So we need some help on both sides of the rotunda, but particularly in the House," he added.

Curbelo also said he would support any bill that gave protections to Dreamers, but added his bill — which would protect nearly 1 million people — was the most likely to win Republican support.

"I'm willing to support them all. I filed a bill that I believe is the best position to serve as a solution because it closely tracks president Obama's DACA executive order," said Curbelo.

"I think if either side gets too ambitious with this project, we could have a breakdown," he added.

This post was updated on Oct. 5 at 11:40 a.m.