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In his 20-plus history of holding public office, both within Florida and representing Florida in Congress, Adam Putnam’s political past reflects that he has been inconsistent with his immigration positions and actions causing others to accuse him of being for illegal alien amnesty.

Since announcing his candidacy for Governor of Florida, Putnam has echoed his support of President Donald Trump’s aggressive anti-immigration stance that has helped highlight Trump’s first six months in office.  However, Putnam’s voting records and public statements indicate he has not always held such an antagonistic view on immigration.  More specifically, Putnam’s critics point to his support of 2013’s “Gang of Eight” Immigration legislation, among the most glaring inconsistencies between his message regarding the issue now as compared to his past political positions.

2013’s ‘Gang of Eight’ Legislative Committee and the Legislation’s fate

As with any “Gang of Eight” legislative proposals in the Senate, this committee consisted of four Democrats and four Republicans in its efforts to show the “bipartisan” consensus of illegal alien amnesty.  The group aimed to accomplish sweeping changes relating to the United States’ immigration policy and agenda.  Members of the committee included Republican Senators Marco Rubio (FL), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), and John McCain (AZ).  The four Democrats serving in the group included Michael Bennet (CO), Richard Durbin (IL), Robert Menendez (NJ) and Charles Schumer (NY).  

The Gang of Eight legislation aimed to reform immigration policies in the United States, was approved by a solid 68 to 32 margin.  Those supporting the bill included all of the Democrats serving in the Senate, along with 14 Republicans.  However, this lack of Republican unity in the Senate served as an indication that the bill would face further challenges in the House.  In fact, Republican John Boehner, Speaker of the House in 2013, refused to bring the bill up for a vote.  As a result, the unaddressed legislation “expired” when the 113th Congress’ term ended at the end of 2014.

What the ‘Gang of Eight’ Immigration Legislation Aimed to Accomplish

The Gang of Eight Immigration Legislation aimed to accomplish significant reforms to immigration in the following ways:

  • The legislation provided a path to “citizenship” for undocumented aliens based on the success of securing the border and improvements related to visa-tracking those already in the U.S.  However, the bill also clarified that legal migrants working to obtain citizenship had priority over those not legally in the country.  The legislation also provided a different route to obtaining citizenship through a separate program.  
  • The bill aimed to implement reforms in the system of business immigration, including expediting the process for foreign students in universities working toward advanced degrees in subject areas including math, engineering, technology, and science.
  • The law aimed at the improvement and expansion of a system improving verification for employers to obtain work authorization for prospective employees.
  • Streamlining visa options for workers with few, if any, skills that primarily work in agricultural-related positions.

Putnam supported many of the Gang’s Legislative Goals

In 2013, Adam Putman, Agricultural Commissioner for the State of Florida, publicly supported many of the gang’s legislative goals regarding proposed immigration reforms.  Putnam praised the portions of the bill which would benefit agriculture and multiple other industries.  Putnam spoke to the Lakeland Ledger in April 2013 about the reasons he backed the proposed legislation:

It [the 2013 Gang of Eight immigration reform legislation] makes improvements at the border and employee verification, while also creating a more modern visa program so that jobs in our economy can be filled when there is a shortfall of domestic labor that has been particularly acute in agriculture.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, Putnam fails to mention his support of 2013’s Gang of Eight Immigration legislation in the issues tab of his 2018 Gubernatorial Campaign website.

Other Politically Expedient Reversals regarding Putnam’s Public Immigration Positions

Although he prefers not to talk about political positions from early in his political career, Congressman Putnam co-sponsored H.R. 2899 in the 108th Congress.  This bill, Border Security and Immigration Improvement Act, which states:

Border Security and Immigration Improvement Act – Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to establish new visa programs for: (1) aliens who seek to enter the United States as temporary workers; and (2) undocumented aliens residing in the United States who seek to remain legally in the United States [and] Authorizes additional funding for the United States Employment Service to assist States meet increased employment services resulting from the amendments made by this Act.

This legislation actually never came up for a vote.  Interested readers can find the full interview relating to this topic in the July 27, 2017 edition of the Naples Daily News.  Also, during Putnam’s final two terms in Congress, he attempted to implement a “blue card” process, in which those arrested for illegal immigration could apply for “green cards” following their payment of fines, provided they plan to work in agriculture.

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