Two former congressmen, who are known for vastly different reasons, spoke about everything from immigration reform to Jeb Bush’s eyewear Monday night in the Storer Auditorium at the University of Miami.
Former congressman Joe Garcia is familiar to Miami natives for representing the city in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013-2015. Anthony Weiner, a former congressman from New York, may be more well-known than Garcia because of his sexting scandals that made national news, even when speaking at a school that Garcia graduated from. Before the two even spoke, a student had texted teacher’s assistant Kevin Sands during the class asking if the man at the back of the class was Weiner.
Garcia and Weiner were at the school to speak to a class called Latino Politics and the 2016 Presidential Primary Elections.
After a short lecture by professor Fernand Amandi, Garcia began by telling students that despite the “fear factor” of the current election cycle, the country is in the best state it’s ever been in. He then took questions from the approximately 70 students in attendance.
Garcia said that the current rhetoric around immigration, especially the idea of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico that has been touted by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, was “absurd.”
“Immigration is good,” Garcia said. “Students like you, millennials, know you’re not competing with someone across the [Mexican] border, you know you’re competing with someone in China.”
Garcia, a Cuban American, responded to a student who asked about the recently improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba, saying that they would be positive for the people of Cuba. He said that while many older Cuban Americans may still support harsh sanctions on the country’s government, the best way to incite change in the country is by opening up travel to the island nation just 90 miles south of Miami. Garcia added that change becomes more frightening as people get older, so universities usually are at the forefront of change.
“Your walking in the streets of Havana will have more of an effect on Cuba than your grandpa sitting at Cafe Versailles damning them,” Garcia said.
Garcia, who promised the students that Weiner would be more entertaining than himself, then gave way to the former congressman and failed New York City mayoral candidate.
Weiner’s discussion with students strayed away from the Latino vote more than Garcia’s, touching on the current state of political campaigning and presidential candidates, consistently evoking laughter from both the students and Amandi.
He criticized polling, which he said has become the focus of campaigns and campaign coverage, and pointed to President Barack Obama’s win in the predominantly white state of Iowa in the 2008 primaries as an example of polls being wrong.