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Republican Response: Immigration Message For Spanish Speakers Only

Image: Carlos Curbelo
File photo of Rep.-elect Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. before the start of a new member orientation on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. Susan Walsh / AP

Newly elected Republican congressman Carlos Curbelo from Miami delivered the Spanish-language response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. But while Republicans had said it would be a translation of remarks made by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, there was one important difference - the English-language message did not mention immigration, but the Spanish-language one did.

Curbelo, delivering his speech in Spanish, called himself a son of immigrants and spoke of his parents' journey to the United States to find liberty, an opportunity to work and to contribute to this country.

Curbelo said lawmakers should work through "appropriate channels to create permanent solutions to our immigration system, to secure our borders, modernize legal immigration and strengthen our economy." He said the president has supported similar ideas and "we ask him to collaborate with us to get it done."

Curbelo, 34, of Cuban descent, has said in the past he would have voted for the sweeping immigration reform bill that the Senate passed last year but House Republican leaders refused to consider.

The English version of the GOP response, delivered by Ernst of Iowa and pitched as a list of GOP priorities rather than a response to Obama's speech, did not reference immigration at all.

Another Iowa lawmaker, Rep. Steve King, did reference immigration on Tuesday night; he stirred up controversy right before the speech after tweeting that a young immigrant woman invited by the First Lady to attend was "deportable."

Curbelo said to the Washington Post after his Republican response that he mentioned immigration because “is important to me. It’s important to a lot of members of the House Republican Conference."