Self-styled champion of immigration reform is raising cash for an anti-immigration hardliner

Rep. Carlos Curbelo is actively raising money for an anti-immigration hardliner.

Rep.-elect Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., talks with reporters outside a meeting of the House Republican Steering Committee in Cannon Building, November 14, 2014. CREDIT: Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Rep.-elect Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., talks with reporters outside a meeting of the House Republican Steering Committee in Cannon Building, November 14, 2014. CREDIT: Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)’s leadership political action committee (PAC) claims to only raise money for Republicans who support comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, but a new fundraising agreement with Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) reveals Curbelo is actively raising money for an anti-immigration hardliner.

Curbelo formed the PAC, called What a Country!, in 2015, telling The Miami Herald at the time that What a Country! “recognizes that the United States is the land of opportunity… where anyone who comes here and works hard and plays by the rules can get ahead.”

“It will support candidates who understand the importance of overhauling our nation’s immigration laws to secure our borders, promote legal immigration and reward those who contribute to our economy,” Curbelo told the Herald.

Additionally, when Curbelo formed the PAC, he said that support forDeferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would be a litmus test for potential recipients.


But Curbelo doesn’t appear to be putting his money where his mouth is. Earlier this month, the Florida congressman signed a joint fundraising agreement with Yoder, according to FEC filings. Yoder is on the record saying he wouldn’t vote for the DREAM act and he doesn’t want to “incentivize” illegal immigration by offering any sort of path to legal status.

“We cannot continue to subsidize or incentivize illegal behavior in this country, and we spend billions on billions of dollars at the border trying to stop folks from coming into the country illegally and as soon as they get here we decide, well, now that you got here we’re going to provide a whole set of benefits and… we’ll turn the other way,” Yoder said at a forum in 2010. “I don’t think the government can send that mixed message.”

Yoder called for stepping up deportations in 2010, saying, “We cannot continue a system in which people reside in the country without any type of status. We have to, we have to step up enforcement on them. We have to remove people from the country who are illegally here, that is a system that cannot work.”

The congressman’s immigration policies haven’t improved in the years since. In 2015, Yoder voted for a bill that blocked funding for President Obama’s immigration orders and would’ve halted the DACA program, which grants temporary deportation relief to young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Yoder also opposed comprehensive immigration reform passed by the Senate in 2013.

This isn’t the first time What a Country! has strayed from its purported mission of fundraising for Republicans who support comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship. In 2016, What A Country! donated to Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), who has said immigrants should be tracked like Fed-Ex packages; Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who was one of the first politicians to endorse Donald Trump; and Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who has proposed using fighter jets to stop illegal immigration.


Curbelo’s PAC has also donated to Yoder twice in the past. In October 2016, What a Country! gave $4,000 to Yoder for Congress, and in June 2017, What a Country! donated $1,000 to Yoder for Congress.

Curbelo’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on why What a Country! entered into a joint fundraising agreement with someone whose stated positions on immigration are entirely counter to the purported purpose of the PAC.

Curbelo is up for reelection this year, but Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won Curbelo’s district by 16 points in 2016, while Curbelo was reelected by a margin of just under 12 points. His is one of 23 seats held by Republicans in districts Trump lost two years ago.

Curbelo’s Democratic challenger, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, doesn’t face a contested primary and has notched an EMILY’s List endorsement.

Update, 2:15 p.m.: A spokesperson for Curbelo’s office said in an email to ThinkProgress that Curbelo had “a number of productive conversations” with Yoder about immigration policy, and while they don’t agree on every issue, Curbelo’s office says he is confident Yoder will support comprehensive immigration reform.

Curbelo’s office also said that What a Country! never aimed to only support Republicans who agree with Curbelo’s immigration policies, only that the PAC “could” support those who do.


Update, 2:55 p.m.: After the story was published, Curbelo tweeted about the piece from his personal account, awarding it what he calls a “#PIP [Politically Intoxicated Person] Award.”

The congressman called the piece “fraudulent” and “complete lies.” When asked, Curbelo did not specify what, if anything, was actually factually incorrect in the report.