Senator Marco Rubio introduced a resolution on the on the floor of the Senate on September 27 in honor of the life of a 24-year-old refugee. The refugee’s death — which occurred when the 32-foot speed boat he owned crashed into a jetty — also prompted Rubio to demand that the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard “closely investigate” the rock jetty off the coast of Miami. On September 28th, Rubio gave a ten-minute speech in honor of the same man to the Senate. That man — Florida Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez — was buried on Wednesday afternoon after a procession where thousands of mourners turned out to grieve his passing.
In November of 2015, Rubio went on record as being opposed to any additional refugees from Syria entering the United States — including children — until ways to screen them had been developed. “My argument is that we can’t allow anyone into this country that we can’t vet. And I believe that the vast majority of refugees that are trying to come here are people we will not be able to vet,” the New York Times quoted Rubio as arguing.
When Fernandez came to the United States, he was a 15-year-old adolescent male. He came into the United States through a Texas border crossing while traveling by bus. All he needed to enter the U.S. and be granted immediate residency — with or without papers — was to show his Cuban passport and to step onto American soil. Fernandez had attempted to enter the U.S. illegally three previous times. Each time he had tried to come in via boat, but he had been caught. Currently, Cubans caught attempting to come to the United States via water can be returned to Cuba if they do not touch American soil. While Fernandez took a boat to Mexico, his landing was undetected there. He made his way overland to the Texas-Mexico border.
Donald Trump has also called for a ban on Syrian refugees. He told a group of 150 Hispanic supporters in Miami on Tuesday, “I think Jose Fernandez was the epitome of this Hispanic movement, the Cuban movement. Somebody who leaves their country for a new life who makes it in America,” the Washington Examiner reported.
While observers in Aleppo have called it “hell itself” (Note to Gary Johnson: Aleppo is in Syria) Republican politicians — such as Rubio and Trump — have been adamant that despite millions of persons who have been displaced because of the destruction of Syria, and the fact that some people have been in refugee camps for three years, no Syrian refugees should come to America. Donald Trump referred to refugees as poisoned Skittles.
Fernandez and his family had been middle class in Cuba, but had chosen to leave after his father had been denied permission to attend a conference in Venezuela.
“And then he remembers the splash. He heard it one night while he was making small talk with the captain. After the splash, he heard the screams. A wave had crashed over the boat’s deck and swept Fernandez’s mother out to sea. He saw her body and before he had time to think, he jumped in. A spotlight shone on the water, and Fernandez could make out his mother thrashing in the waves about 60 feet from the boat. She could swim, but just barely, and as Fernandez pushed his way toward her, he spat out salty water with almost every stroke. Waves — “stupid big,” he says — lifted him to the sky, then dropped him back down. When he reached his mother he told her, “Grab my back, but don’t push me down. Let’s go slow, and we’ll make it.” She held his left shoulder. With his right arm — his pitching arm — he paddled. Fifteen minutes later, they reached the boat. A rope dropped, and they climbed aboard. For now, at least, they were going to be OK.”
Rescue workers report that 2016 has been the deadliest year so far for refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. Many take to the sea in an effort to escape dying from bomb blasts or being shot to death in their streets. Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach, failed to move either Rubio or Trump to change their stances on Syrian refugees.
It’s too bad that they can’t throw heat.