Central Florida immigration advocates go after Stephanie Murphy

Stephanie Murphy
They're accusing the moderate Democrat of blocking an immigration registry in the budget bill.

Charging that Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy is trying to block help for immigrants in the Democrats’ $1.75 trillion budget bill, a coalition of immigration advocates including Venezuelan leader William Diaz and Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith are going after her.

The coalition sent a letter to Murphy earlier this week expressing dismay that the moderate from Winter Park would be, in their view, leading Democratic House opposition to an immigration item in the Build Back Better Act. They urged her to “change course and champion” the provision and the bill.

The letter includes a not-so-veiled threat to pull support if she does not.

Murphy declared in September that she opposed the budget reconciliation bill, which at that time was for $3.5 trillion for various social and climate resilience programs sought by the President Joe Biden administration. Murphy said she supported much of the bill, but she has been critical of some specific spending and tracing provisions. She has been involved in House negotiations. Despite the bill’s price tag being cut in half and other changes, she has not announced a change of her “no” vote position.

Meanwhile she’s been inundated with pressure from organizations on both the left and right, with numerous TV commercials running in the Orlando market urging her to vote yes or to vote no.

Add to that, now, a coalition of immigration reform advocates seeking inclusion of an immigration registry and citizenship provision. The provision would allow some immigrants to be recognized for potential citizenship initiatives and to qualify to enroll for medical coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier this fall, the Senate Parliamentarian blocked potential inclusion of broader immigration reform in the bill as not pertinent. However, House Democrats pushed funding for the registry as a lighter way to provide help to up to millions of undocumented workers nationwide who arrived before 2010, including many Venezuelan, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and other refugees who settled in Florida, and who are seeking some permanent residency through various programs.

Murphy’s office did not immediately respond Thursday to a Florida Politics inquiry about the coalition’s letter.

Diaz, founder of Casa de Venezuela-Orlando, said he initially wrote to Murphy and received a couple of responses from her staff, including one which stated, “We are not blocking anything. We are asking for more clarification and information on the proposal that was submitted to the caucus last week.”

Diaz said that sounded like a political cop-out and did not reflect Murphy’s actions, saying she pushed for the registry to be dropped from the bill. He called on Murphy to publicly declare her support for the registry through a tweet or public statement.

“They say one thing and then she acts in another direction. It’s terrible,” he said.

Murphy is herself an immigrant who benefited from America’s refugee policies. When she was an infant, her family fled communist Vietnam by boat and was rescued at sea by the U.S. Navy. She often tells that story in her campaigns.

“We are dismayed at reports you are leading an effort to block immigration ‘registry’ in the House Budget bill which would provide a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants, including immigrants with temporary protected status or TPS, Dreamers and essential workers,” the letter declares. “You are harming the economy of Florida and playing games with the lives of Venezuelans, Haitians and other TPS holders across Florida, including your own district.”

The provision they seek was removed from the bill, then restored earlier this week.

The coalition includes Diaz, a leading Florida advocate for Venezuelan immigrants who over the years has stood with both Republican and Democratic allies; Smith, a three-term Democratic Representative from Orlando who is of Peruvian descent; Orange County School Board Member Johana Lopez; the Rev. Jose de Jesus Palmar; and representatives of the Immigration Partnership & Coalition Fund, the Venezuelan American Alliance; and other immigration and community groups throughout Central Florida, plus some signatories who are listed as her constituents.

Murphy’s Florida’s 7th Congressional District covers Seminole County and parts of northern and central Orange County, including neighborhoods in southern Seminole and central and eastern Orange that have large, mixed Hispanic populations.

“If you block a path to citizenship for us, with deepest respect, our families and our communities, we will not forget,” the letter reads.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].

One comment

  • Andre

    November 5, 2021 at 4:03 pm

    You can’t have it both ways. If your democrat support democratic policies or don’t run for office , show some courage congresswoman. if you get unelected because of it then you should not be running in the district. Spineless politicians who care more about their bullshit perception of power than doing what’s right
    Republicans are tough dems are soft as grapes… And I am a Dem ..

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