Washington Post: Border wall hits close to home

Trump's immigration policy raises old fears for Congress’s first-generation Americans

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Washington, D.C., August 9, 2017 | comments

For many Hispanic members of Congress, President Trump’s immigration policies serve as both an agenda to be opposed and a throwback to their personal experiences.

Many of the record number of Hispanic lawmakers this year — 45, from both parties — are first-generation Americans whose parents came to the United States from places such as Mexico and Cuba, as low-skilled workers, some speaking only Spanish.

For some of them, Trump’s immigration crackdown raises old fears from their childhoods growing up in the United States with parents from somewhere else.

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Curbelo, 37, was born in Miami to parents from Havana and Matanzas, Cuba. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Miami, and worked as a public-relations executive, Senate staff member and school board member before he was elected to the House in 2014.

Two decades had passed since their families left Cuba, but when it came to their son, Carlos and Teresita Curbelo were clear about one thing: He must have a Cuban upbringing.

They raised the younger Carlos in the city of Hialeah, the most highly concentrated Cuban community in the United States. He enrolled at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, an all-boys academy that was founded in Havana in 1854 and attended by Fidel Castro before it moved into exile. After school, young Carlos spent considerable time with his grandmother and her sister, absorbing their stories and attitudes. His family members were less assimilated than those of his friends, he said.

“I grew up with that Cuban culture but then with this reverence, and I would say adoration, for the United States,” Curbelo said in a recent interview. “The culture was Cuban, but the patriotism was decidedly American.”

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“‘The greatest thing in the world,’ ‘a gift from God’ — those are the kinds of descriptions I became accustomed to hearing about the United States,” Curbelo said.

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