As his immigration executive actions have been blocked by the courts, President Obama will travel to Miami for a Wednesday townhall on immigration to rally public opinion in his corner.
The forum will be hosted at Florida International University by Telemundo and MSNBC.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that the focus of the townhall will be “the president’s ongoing efforts to bring some accountability to our immigration system and try to finally fix as many of the broken — the many problems of the broken immigration system as he possibly can.”
But what a coincidence that the forum is being held in a hub of Cuban-Americans.
“It’s a town hall meeting, you know, so that means that people will have an opportunity to ask question of the president. And given the sizable Cuban-American population in South Florida, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody just choose to ask the president about this. And I would not anticipate that the president will have any new announcements,” Earnest said.
“But I do think that you can expect to hear the president persuasively restate his case for why he believes moving to normalize relations with Cuba is clearly in the best interest of the United States and is the best way for us to elicit the kind of social and political change that we’d like to see in Cuba.”
Earnest added that “it’s precisely because of the president’s commitment to universal human rights and applying pressure on the Cuban regime to respect and even protect those basic human rights, that the president wants to change his policy.”
The president’s new plan, he argued, “will remove a barrier to our efforts to try to focus international attention on the Cuban regime’s treatment of its citizens, that for too long, any time we wanted to go and raise concerns about Cuba’s policy toward their own people, other countries wanted to raise questions about our policy toward Cuba.”
“And now that distraction has been removed, international attention will focus on the way that the Cuban regime all too often violates the basic human political rights of their people,” he said. “And whether that’s turned to squelch free speech, or trying to trample on the rights of independent journalists, or to prevent groups of people from gathering to have political discussions in Cuba, that there are a variety of — of instances on a regular basis where we see the — the Castro government try to squelch the basic human rights of their people.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) noted that as the next round of U.S.-Cuba normalization talks begins later this week, more than 200 dissidents were recently arrested by Havana.
“U.S. officials are so desperate to open a U.S. embassy in Havana, that they’re forging ahead despite a new wave of repression,” he said today. “…It’s clear there is zero intent on behalf of the Castro dictatorship to engage in a genuine conversation that centers around bringing freedom to the island’s residents.”
“In addition, the recent congressional delegation that visited Cuba sent worrying signals to the regime that human rights are, in fact, negotiable. By staying in a regime-controlled hotel that was confiscated twice in its history, these U.S. officials sent a worrying message that the many legal claims the U.S. has against the Castro regime are not a priority for U.S. lawmakers. Even worse about this trip is how the members of Congress capitulated to the regime’s terms for this trip by not meeting with dissidents and human rights activists. These are not insignificant actions, because the regime interprets them as signs that U.S. policy makers are not truly interested in the democratic aspirations and human rights of the Cuban people.”
The leader of that congressional delegation? House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Pelosi tweeted that she had “positive and constructive meetings” with Cuban officials.
Rubio said U.S. negotiators “must insist that any future negotiations place democracy, human rights, free expression and the free will of the Cuban people to choose their own leaders through multi-party elections as the highest priority before any more concessions are made to the regime.”