Delegation for 3.19.24: Haiti — Venezuela — Cuba — trail mix — IVF
Image via AP.

U.S. Capitol
Delegation members warn of an expected wave of Haitian refugees into Florida.

Braced for Haiti

Florida has yet to see a flood of Haitian refugees reach the peninsula.

However, Florida lawmakers in the House and Senate want the U.S. to be prepared.

Delegation members from both chambers tried to pressure President Joe Biden to head off a rush of migrants. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott sent a letter to the President on Saturday.

“Florida families are compassionate. We believe that the people of Haiti deserve our sympathy, targeted American assistance, and the support of the international community,” the Republican Senators wrote.

The Florida Delegation urges preparation for an expected wave of Haitian refugees.

“However, Floridians and the rest of the American public will not tolerate your administration again opening the floodgates for countless, unvetted foreign nationals to stream into our country, putting our national security at grave risk and creating untold public safety threats for our communities. We must consider this danger due to the numerous reports of gangs committing jailbreaks in Haiti and releasing thousands of dangerous criminals.”

A couple of days later, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz led a letter calling for U.S. troops to intercept fleeing Haitians at sea and offering support to efforts by Gov. Ron DeSantis to stop refugees from entering the state. While the letter did not use the term, Gaetz, in a news release, called the coming migrants an “invasion.”

“Florida will deploy additional law enforcement resources to the southern regions of the state in anticipation of a possible wave of Haitian migrants as the Caribbean country struggles amid street violence and political instability; we believe the resources are insufficient to address the scope and scale of the anticipated mass migration,” the letter reads.

GOP Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Anna Paulina Luna and Daniel Webster co-signed the letter. It states that the best option for the Navy and Coast Guard is to interdict refugees and return them to Port-au-Prince.

Others in the delegation took a distinctly different view of how America should respond to the crisis on the island.

“In the face of dire circumstances, where over 160,000 people in Port-au-Prince alone have been displaced, compassion and solidarity must be our guiding principles — not exclusion and aggression,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat.

“Let’s be clear: Haiti has no functioning government and the people of Haiti are enduring a terrifying rise in violence. The United States needs to use every tool at our disposal to help restore stability and protect innocent Haitians. But while Haiti grapples with turmoil and rampant gang violence, Gov. Ron DeSantis has decided to deploy state forces to the Florida border for yet another inhumane and morally reprehensible political stunt.”

The only Haitian American member of Congress, Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, said the U.S. needs to support any effort to restore stability on the island itself. She praised Secretary of State Antony Blinken for directing $133 million in security and humanitarian assistance through the Caribbean Community but said Congress still needs to act to release the funding.

“The Biden-Harris administration backed the establishment of a Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission, under Kenya’s leadership, to pave the way for Haitian self-determination and safety,” the Miramar Democrat said.

“U.S. funding for this mission is critical. Since October, Republicans in Congress have blocked funding for the MSS. They must lift the hold on the $40 million needed to deploy the security support mission. Every minute the Republicans refuse to provide the promised funds, the Haitian people suffer. This is the same nation that led the first successful Black revolt against oppression in the Americas, serving as a beacon of light for freedom and liberty. We have an obligation to them today to support them in their efforts toward ensuring peace, democracy, stability and prosperity.”

Venezuelan exports

In addition to the continuing crisis in Haiti, Rubio and Scott also raised concerns about gang violence in Venezuela.

Along with Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a Miami Republican, the lawmakers led a bicameral letter to Biden calling for the designation of Tren de Aragua, Venezuela’s largest gang, as a transnational criminal organization.

“Tren de Aragua is an invading criminal army from a prison in Venezuela that has spread their brutality and chaos to U.S. cities and small towns,” the letter states.

Maria Salazar calls for the designation of Tren de Aragua, Venezuela’s largest gang, as a transnational criminal organization.

“If left unchecked, they will unleash an unprecedented reign of terror, mirroring the devastation it has already inflicted in communities throughout Central and South America, most prominently in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. The breadth of Tren de Aragua’s operations encompasses murder, drug and human trafficking, sex crimes, extortion and kidnapping, among other brutalities. It is clear that most state and local law enforcement agencies are not yet prepared to handle the magnitude of this grave threat.”

Only Republicans co-signed the letter, including Reps. Bilirakis, Mario Díaz-Balart, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez and Michael Waltz.

Salazar chairs the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, and Rubio serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. They wrote that the re-designation would allow the deployment of international resources and stop the expansion of the gang into other nations.

In addition to sending the letter, Rubio made the case in a Fox News op-ed that the administration must be especially forceful about this crime organization.

“There’s no time to lose because Tren de Aragua’s ‘stabbings, assaults and robberies’ are on the rise in several metropolitan areas. Moreover, the FBI fears the gang’s leaders are forming an alliance with Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13),” he wrote.

Cuban spring

Just to add to the level of international unrest, a new round of protests broke out Sunday in communist Cuba. Members of South Florida’s delegation immediately called on the administration to provide support — and at greater levels than the U.S. offered when similar demonstrations occurred three years ago.

“On July 11, 2021, thousands of Cubans took to the streets demanding freedom,” said Giménez, a Miami-Dade Republican and the only Cuban-born member of Congress.

Food shortages in Cuba lead to a fresh round of protests.

“Today, on March 17, thousands of Cubans have taken to the streets again to protest the murderous Castro dictatorship and demand freedom, power and food. In response, the regime shut down the internet to prevent protesters from organizing and mobilized its secret police to brutalize and jail the opposition. Today, over 1,000 brave men and women are being jailed unjustly for exercising their basic Human Rights. After 64 years of tyranny, the Cuban people want to be free. I’m calling on the Biden administration to do the right thing and provide the island of Cuba with satellite internet to stop the repression of the dictatorial regime.”

Meanwhile, Scott and Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican and Cuban American, acted on intelligence that the Cuban government responded to demonstrations by killing imprisoned activist José Daniel Ferrer.

“After demands for proof of life, my team has received word that José Daniel Ferrer is alive, but in critical condition and on the brink of death,” Scott posted.

“I demand the illegitimate communist regime in Cuba IMMEDIATELY release José Daniel, who was brave enough to call these thugs who they are and stand for freedom for the Cuban people.”

Díaz-Balart said Ferrer’s family confirmed his condition. “According to his family, he is in dangerously poor health after months of mistreatment and abuse in prison,” the Congressman posted on X.

“He has been held incommunicado many times and tortured. The regime must end its ruthless persecution, release this innocent man, and give him the immediate medical care that he needs. The Biden administration should tighten sanctions on the ruthless Cuban dictatorship, and demand life and freedom for Ferrer and all those risking their lives today so that Cuba might be free.”

Happy trails

The U.S. Department of Transportation will provide Jacksonville with more than $147 million in funding as part of an effort to revitalize Downtown through the Emerald Trail.

Rep. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, said the funding would benefit local transit, schools and commerce. He and Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican, advocated for the funding in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on behalf of the Jacksonville Transportation Agency.

Aaron Bean and John Rutherford hit the (Emerald) Trail.

“I’m excited to have worked with Congressman Rutherford to help secure over $147 million in direct grant funding to support the City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s master plan to transform 14 historic neighborhoods and Downtown into the Emerald Trail,” Bean said.

“From trails to greenways to parks, it’s critical that our transportation networks have the infrastructure to keep Floridians safe while they walk, bike and drive. I’m glad to support the Emerald Trail project with financial resources that will jump-start the work and bring us closer to this nature trail becoming a reality.”

Logan Act liability

For years, Waltz criticized Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry for sometimes acting as a back channel with extremist governments. Now that Kerry — a former Senator and Democratic presidential nominee — no longer works in the Biden administration, Waltz wants some immediate transparency on past communications.

The St. Augustine Beach Republican is requesting from Kerry all private correspondence with former Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Jarif during former President Donald Trump’s administration, after Kerry completed a stint as former President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. Waltz suggested that Kerry violated the Logan Act by making commitments when he had no authority to speak for the U.S.

Michael Waltz demands transparency from John Kerry on his back-channel communications.

“John Kerry undermined a sitting U.S. President and emboldened a state sponsor of terror by engaging with a foreign adversary as a private citizen,” Waltz said. “It’s critical we get answers on what Mr. Kerry specifically discussed with then-Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and if he attempted to sabotage President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against the Iran Regime by making promises on behalf of a future Democrat Administration. As a result, Iran became flushed with cash under the Biden administration and used this wealth to support Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel.”

Waltz pointed to testimony by Kerry that he had conversations over Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram that the Congressman considered inappropriate.

His letter was co-signed by four other Republican Representatives, including Reps. Byron Donalds and Brian Mast.

IVF — sometimes

After a few weeks of controversy over her own position on in vitro fertilization (IVF), Luna has filed legislation making clear what she thinks the law should allow.

The St. Petersburg Republican’s Right to Try IVF Act would prohibit any state from prohibiting a licensed physician from performing the procedure, so long as it is for a woman who has been certified as experiencing a medical hardship in conceiving a child.

Anna Paulina Luna wants to ban any bans on IVF. Image courtesy Luna’s congressional office.

“I have always supported the responsible use of IVF,” she said. “IVF is an amazing innovation of modern medicine that helps families have children who would otherwise be unable to do so. Children are the greatest blessing, and we should support families in their journey to having them, especially as we are seeing increasing rates of infertility and declining birthrates. IVF is Pro-Life, and has helped so many families, several of whom I know personally.”

Luna last month pulled her name off as a co-sponsor of a Democratic bill that more broadly ensured all women can utilize IVF. That’s something that Democrats hammered her on. Luna previously announced her support for IVF after an Alabama Supreme Court decision said frozen embryos under state law had the same protections as children. Luna pulled her name off that federal bill after a pro-life group criticized it.

“Anna Paulina Luna’s hypocrisy knows no bounds — but she’s clearly too deep in the pockets of anti-choice extremists to care,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee representative Lauryn Fanguen. “Florida women deserve better than a hyperpartisan radical willing to jeopardize their access to reproductive care like IVF to please special interest groups.”

GETs it done

Energy independence could come with energy efficiency. That’s the hope of legislation filed by Rep. Kathy Castor that aims to improve the power grid.

The Advancing Grid-Enhancing Technologies (GETs) Act would boost investment in technology to expand the capacity of existing power transmission infrastructure.

“New clean energy projects — including solar, wind, geothermal and other sources — are popping up all across the country thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act,” the Tampa Democrat said.

Kathy Castor’s bill would strengthen grid-enhancing efforts to bring maximum efficiency of the power infrastructure.

“In order to bring these projects online quickly, we must upgrade our old, congested transmission infrastructure. The Advancing Grid-Enhancing Technologies (GETs) Act will help us do that by supercharging the deployment of grid-enhancing technologies that enable transmission operators to maximize the capacity of existing power lines.”

Sens. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat, and Angus King, a Maine independent, will carry companion legislation in the Senate. In the House, Castor will run the bill with Democratic Reps. Paul Tonko of New York and Scott Peters of California.

Fighting antisemitism together

Rep. Vern Buchanan and former Rep. Ted Deutch were spotted together again, at an event where the pols from different sides of the aisle remain in agreement.

The American Jewish Committee, where Deutch now serves as CEO, held an event at Michael’s on East in Sarasota. Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, specifically recognized Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, for his commitment and service to Israel and the Jewish community. Buchanan, Co-Chair of the Florida delegation, has supported Israel in its ongoing war with Hamas and has also spoken out against a rise of antisemitism in Florida.

Vern Buchanan and Ted Deutch were spotted together again, this time for Buchanan’s commitment to the Jewish community.

“Just an amazing afternoon in Southwest Florida honoring the efforts of the American Jewish Committee Global,” Buchanan posted on X. “Too many in Washington remain silent in the fight to end the scourge of antisemitism and the barbarism of Hamas. I never will.”

The AJC previously awarded Buchanan a Civic Achievement Award.

Deporting rapists

Meanwhile, Buchanan worked with Donalds on a more partisan bill cracking down on sex crimes by undocumented individuals.

The two Republicans introduced the Protecting Our Communities from Sexual Predators Act, along with Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican. The legislation would require the U.S. to detain any individual in the country illegally who is charged or convicted of sexual assault and ensure they are immediately deportable. It would also bar anyone with such a conviction while in the country illegally from re-entry.

Vern Buchanan and Byron Donalds team up to crack down on sex crimes by undocumented immigrants.

“Illegal aliens who sexually assault and rape American citizens have absolutely no place in our society,” Buchanan said. “Shockingly, illegal immigrants who commit sexual assault are not immediately deportable, which is why we need to pass this common-sense legislation to keep these deranged and dangerous predators out of our country and help protect our communities.”

The Florida Congressmen noted the recent arrest of Santo Felix Cruz-Ramos in Englewood. Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputies arrested him for allegedly raping a woman at an area hotel.

“Just days ago, a member of our Southwest Florida community was sexually assaulted by an illegal alien. Americans throughout all corners of our nation are bearing the perilous consequences of Joe Biden’s open border crime wave,” said Donalds, a Naples Republican.

“I stand with Rep. Buchanan to ensure that all illegal aliens who have been convicted of sexual assault are deemed immediately deportable. These shocking and completely avoidable crimes must come to an end.”

Union busting

Franklin wants Congress to know if federal employees do union work on the clock.

The Lakeland Republican filed the Taxpayer-Funded Union Time Transparency Act, which would require every federal agency to record and report to Congress the total time and taxpayer dollars spent by federal employees engaging in union activities. He specifically criticized demands by unions to maintain telecommuting practices.

Scott Franklin is pushing a measure to keep union business off the clock.

Franklin said, “Lingering pandemic telework policies cause backlogs and make it harder for Americans to get swift assistance.”

“American taxpayers shouldn’t pay for empty federal buildings and get bad customer service. They also shouldn’t foot the bill for bureaucrats — who are supposed to be public servants — to help unions ‘organize’ against efforts to force federal employees back to work. This bill increases transparency and ensures the Biden administration provides a full account of taxpayer-funded union time.”

Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, sponsored a Senate companion.

The lawmakers want any report on union time to include details on each employee authorized for official time, including their position and salary, number of hours spent on official time activities, a percentage representing official time hours out of all hours worked, monetary value, and disclosure of reimbursements when agency property was used at no cost or a discount rate on official time, expenses paid by the agency for official time activities, and an explanation for any increases when compared to previous years.

Harris to Parkland

It’s been more than six years since a shooter killed 17 people, mostly students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. But Rep. Jared Moskowitz will once again lead national leaders through the Parkland school’s halls this week to bring the tragedy to the forefront.

He will lead Vice President Kamala Harris through his alma mater on Saturday.

Jared Moskowitz will guide Kamala Harris through the tragic site of the Parkland school massacre.

“I’m grateful that Vice President Harris will visit my alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” the Parkland Democrat said. “The school is a literal time capsule of one of the worst mass shootings in American history. Thank you to all the families and the school board for helping to make this happen.”

Moskowitz, as a member of the Florida Legislature, pushed for school safety legislation at the state level after the shooting, and he now wants action at the federal level as well.

On this day

March 19, 2003 — “George W. Bush announces start of Iraq War” via The New York Times — President Bush gave the order to strike Iraq after Iraqi informers produced a lead asserting that the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, and possibly his two sons, were in a private house built over an underground bunker in southern Baghdad. Bush ended what had become an anxious guessing game, by telling the world that American forces had begun the ”opening stages” of a broad campaign to topple Hussein. Bush cautions Americans that the fighting could go on longer than expected and might cost more than hoped. The invasion, he said, is ”not a campaign of half measures.”

March 19, 1916 — “First U.S. air combat mission begins” via — Eight Curtiss “Jenny” planes of the First Aero Squadron took off from New Mexico. The First Aero Squadron, organized after the outbreak of World War I, was on a support mission for the 7,000 U.S. troops who invaded Mexico to capture Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Villa, who opposed American support for Mexican President Venustiano Carranza, led a band of several hundred guerrillas across the border on a raid of the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 17 Americans. Under orders from President Woodrow Wilson, Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing launched a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Villa.


Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch, compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by A.G. Gancarski.

Staff Reports


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