Hispanic Caucus Denies Membership to Florida Republican Over 'Certain Values'

Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) leave a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on Sept. 6, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The Congressional Hispanic Caucus voted today to keep a Florida Republican from joining, arguing that their group is more about policy than ethnicity and Rep. Carlos Curbelo didn’t make the cut.

“After due considertion, the CHC determined not to accept Rep. Curbel’s request to join the caucus,” CHC spokesman Carlos Paz, Jr., said in a statement after the membership vote. “The CHC isn’t just an organization for Hispanics; it is a caucus that represents certain values.”

“This vote reflects the position of many of our members that Rep. Curbelo and his record are not consistent with those values.”

The Congressional Black Caucus has a Republican member: Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) joined in 2015 after first being elected to the House. There are currently no Republicans in the CHC; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) was invited to apply but declined.

Members were reportedly irked by Curbelo’s unwillingness to push their DREAM Act, with CHC Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) telling Politico that “we’d like him to lead in a more productive direction.”

Curbelo, who reportedly accused Lujan Grisham of discrimination and needled her inability to speak Spanish, has been pushing his own version of a DREAM Act to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries from deportation. “They think I have some magical wand or something. Me signing onto that bill is going to have little, if any, effect,” the 37-year-old son of Cuban exiles said in response. “A lot of them are taking the approach it has to be this or nothing. I also don’t want to be a part of that message because I don’t agree with that.”

Today, Curbelo responded to the Hispanic Caucus membership denial in English and Spanish.

“It is truly shameful the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has decided to build a wall around the organization to exclude Hispanic-Americans who aren’t registered in the Democratic Party,” the congressman said. “This sends a powerful and harmful message of discrimination, bigotry, and division. Unbelievably, petty partisan interests have led the CHC to formally endorse the segregation of American Hispanics.”

“It is a dark day on Capitol Hill,” Curbelo added. “However, this only strengthens my commitment to working with my colleagues on both sides to urgently seek a solution for young immigrants in the DACA Program.”

Earlier this week, the Cuban American Bar Association had urged the inclusion of the Cuban-American Republican in the caucus.

“Members of CABA were concerned to read that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus requested guidance from the House Administration Committee on whether the Caucus was even required to let a Republican join the Caucus,” CABA president Javier A. Lopez wrote in a letter to Lujan Grisham. “This should not be a political event; if the Caucus is to carry out its function as a forum for Hispanic Members of Congress, then it should welcome ALL Hispanic Members of Congress that wish to join and contribute in a collaborative effort.”

“The Hispanic community is not monolithic and does not prescribe to a single ideology or world-view,” Lopez added. “It is a dynamic and diverse community and all voices should be welcome if the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is to live up to its ideals.”

At a Tuesday press conference with House Democratic leaders, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) called the beef with Curbelo “just background noise.”

“We continue to push for negotiations with the president and with the Republican leadership” on a DREAM Act, Sanchez said. “If Congressman Curbelo is serious about providing relief, then he should work with us, instead of complaining in the media profusely, which is what his preferred sort of action seems to be.”