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Florida Congressmen Back Scott Despite Immigration Clash

Three pro-immigration reform Republican representatives from Miami made a somewhat awkward endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott Monday, admitting they oppose his harsh anti-immigration policy stances. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen threw their support behind Scott because of his positions on jobs and lowering taxes. But that meant overlooking his plans to push for an Arizona-style immigration law for Florida, which the three fervently opposed during the primary.

They made a “lesser of two evils” argument for supporting Scott over his opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, The Miami Herald reported today:

On Monday, the congressional Republicans said they also disagree on immigration with Sink, who opposes an Arizona-style law but would require business owners and state agencies to validate employees’ legal status.

“Since we disagree with both candidates on immigration, on what do we have to focus on?” Lincoln Diaz-Balart asked in Spanish after answering the question in English. “I think it’s, ‘Who’s prepared to create jobs from day one?’”

Quipped Ros-Lehtinen: “I can’t even get my own family to agree with me on most of my issues.”

Of course, all three had supported a tough-on-immigration candidate before: They backed Scott’s opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, in the primary. Facing ads attacking him for his weak immigration stances, McCollum unveiled a proposal in August for an Arizona-style law. Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers quickly responded with concern. “I’m disappointed and was blindsided by Bill’s decision to promote this, and I encourage the candidates to focus on plans that will improve Florida’s economy,” Ros-Lehtinen said at the time.

All three are supporters of immigration reform, particularly the DREAM Act, which would help some college students and military service members earn legal status. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who announced in February he will not seek re-election this year, introduced the bill in 2009, while Mario Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen co-sponsored the legislation. As governor, Scott would not have any say in the DREAM Act specifically — it is a federal effort — but he argues against all forms of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants in the country.

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