President Obama used a visit to Florida to curry favor with Latino voters and warn Republicans of the political consequences of failing to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, blaming the failure to move the measure on a small faction of the party.
Addressing an audience at a fundraiser in Miami, the president said his predecessor, President George W. Bush, had supported a major overhaul of the nation's immigration laws and lamented that the House GOP is now preventing the bill from becoming law.
He said the faction of Republicans opposed to a comprehensive immigration bill needs to learn “there's a price to pay when you don't act.”
A major immigration overhaul, he said, “is being held up by a small faction in the Republican party that says, 'We don't want to do anything. Our main goal is obstruction.'”
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., was on hand for the fundraiser to benefit Senate Democrats' re-election efforts. The fundraiser took place at the home of Jorge Mas Canosa. Mas Santo's father, Jorge Mas Canosa helped forge a major alliance between the Republican party and Cuban immigrants who fled Fidel Castro's communist rule.
But his son came out strongly – both financially and politically – in favor of Obama in 2008, changing the Cuban political equation significantly in Florida. In 2012, Obama received more of the Cuban vote than expected – 51 percent, according to exit polls.
In his remarks at the event Friday night, Obama said the U.S. must continue updating its policies toward Cuba. He noted that he was born around the same time Castro took power, and said it no longer makes sense to continue 50-year-old policies of isolating Cuba in the Internet age. The U.S. cut of diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and instituted a strict economic embargo the following year.
The Obama administration has lifted some travel and and banking restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba.