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Bill Nelson: ‘Marco will get his chance’ to stop Cuban refugee welfare

Bill Nelson says he supports Marco Rubio’s amendment that would stop giving welfare benefits to Cuban immigrants – but says Florida’s junior Senator’s attempt to add that amendment to an FAA reauthorization bill was the wrong way to go about it.

Rubio lashed out last week after GOP Senate leaders refused to allow the amendment to come up for a vote.

“This is why people are so sick of politics,” the Florida Republican said on the Senate floor last Thursday. “You can vote for a Democrat, you can vote for a Republican, you can vote for a vegetarian. It doesn’t matter who you vote for: Nothing happens. These people don’t do anything.”

Rubio’s amendment would automatically end eligibility for federal assistance under the refugee resettlement program for Cuban immigrants, unless they are fleeing persecution. Under current law, Cuban immigrants are allowed to remain in the country if they touch U.S. soil, even if they arrive illegally, and they are automatically eligible for federal benefits.

Nelson said he supports Rubio’s proposal – but says the FAA reauthorization was the wrong vehicle to attach his amendment to.


“At the last moment (he) wanted to open back up the closed and negotiated FAA bill that was ready to go, and that’s why he was denied that opportunity,” Nelson said on Friday in his Tampa congressional district office. “His amendment was not pending and it was not germane. But he will have an another opportunity and I will help him with that.”

In his 25-minute address on the Senate floor last week, Rubio cited a major investigation published last year by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that found Cuban immigrants were coming to the U.S, collecting federal benefits, and then returning to Cuba with the money.

Nelson says Rubio is right on the substance of his amendment.

“Marco has the support of a number of us because what he’s proposing is to make right taking a specific group of migrants and suddenly offering them social benefits upwards to $3,000 and $4,000 … because they’re supposed to be refugees and they turn right around and go back to Cuba, and still collect the benefits,” Nelson said, adding, “that’s not right.”

The Senate is expected to hold a cloture vote on the FAA bill on Monday. It has broad bipartisan support, and received a 94-4 vote to invoke cloture last week.

You can watch Rubio’s speech below:


Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at

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