Republican Latinos, Immigrant Groups React to Boehner Resignation

Image: John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio holds up the gavel after receiving it from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. during the first session of the 112th Congresson Jan. 5, 2011. Charles Dharapak / AP file

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By Suzanne Gamboa

Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio had a bit of buoyancy when he delivered news at the Values Voter Summit of House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation announcement.

Boehner announced Friday that he would resign at the end of October, news that came a day after he hosted Pope Francis at the Capitol. Boehner was seen frequently teary-eyed and weepy during the visit.

Rubio, R-Fla., was in the middle of his speech at the gathering of conservatives, discussing the need for change in Washington, when he stopped to announce the news.

“How can it be that we sent a Republican majority to Congress and yet they’re still not able to keep our country from sliding in the wrong direction?” Rubio asked. “We’ll see how things progress. Just a few minutes ago, Speaker Boehner announced that he will be resigning.”

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks during the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)Jose Luis Magana / AP

Elated shouts, screams of excitement and a burst of applause went up from the crowd.

“With respect for him and the service he’s provided to our country, it’s not about him or anybody else and I’m not here today to bash anyone, but the time has come to turn the page,” Rubio said. “The time has come to turn the page and allow a new generation of leadership in this country.”

Rubio has been pushing for defunding Planned Parenthood, a proposal that failed when the Senate rejected a bill that would have kept the government running through Dec. 11 and avoided a potential shutdown on Oct. 1.

In the House, Boehner has been facing pressure from conservatives to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding. With his speakership no longer at stake, Boehner is expected to push through a government funding bill that keeps Planned Parenthood funding intact and avoids a government shutdown.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., has been a supporter of Boehner and called the resignation “a major loss for Congress.”

“He is one of the most decent, caring people I have ever met, and I will miss him every day,” Curbelo said.

Boehner has been targeted by immigration reform activists for refusing to call a vote in the House on the 2013 comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate. He was portrayed as the Grinch during Christmas protests and young immigrants not legally in the U.S. confronted him at his usual breakfast place at Pete’s Diner near the Capitol.

The Alliance for Citizenship said Boehner, as House Speaker, lost a chance to modernize the immigration system, even though at one point in his tenure he said it was time for Congress to act on the issue.

“His fear of a conservative revolt prevented him from passing comprehensive immigration reform …,” the alliance said in a statement. “He could have welcomed a new generation of future doctors, entrepreneurs, and business leaders into a workforce … If he had the courage he would have kept millions of families together …”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who long has been a proponent for immigration reform, praised Boehner for maintaining a hard line on “the Castros’ despotic rule in Cuba” and other issues.

“John expanded our big-tent party and has represented his home state of Ohio well over 20 years with pride and integrity,” said Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., praised Boehner for making the decision to resign:

But Sen. Ted Cruz also seeking the GOP presidential nomination, welcomed Boehner's resignation. Cruz, R-Texas, also has wanted Planned Parenthood defunded. Cruz linked Boehner’s resignation to the Values Voter gathering telling its attendees they terrify Washington.

“My only request is can you come more often,” he said.

Boehner’s departure hardly makes things easier for immigration reform proponents. A tough race will be waged to replace him that is certain to put conservative and moderate Republicans at odds.

Some who might be in that race are Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is House Majority Leader. Another name that has emerged is Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, a favorite of Tea Party loyalists.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, acknowledged he differed with Speaker Boehner, "on the pace of reform," but said he respects and admires him.

Labrador has sought a leadership role in the House GOP, but said, "as for succession, today is not the day for such talk. But I am committed to supporting leaders who will keep our promise to the American people to fight for real change in Washington."

Bracing for the election to take Boehner’s place, Ben Monterroso, director of Mi Familia Vota, issued a warning:

“Boehner’s successor will not succeed if, like the current speaker, he or she tries to placate the anti-immigrant conservatives in the House who are in the minority, but expertly whip up animosity against immigrants,” Monterroso said.

Cristina Jimenez, director of United We Dream immigrant advocacy group, said there’s little difference in Republicans who have voted repeatedly to “deport people like my parents and my brother.”

Her comment was on a news release that described Boehner’s resignation as a “rearranging of the deck chairs on a sinking ship for Latino and immigrant support.”

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