TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A prominent Republican fund-raiser turned critic of President Donald Trump said Thursday it would be a huge economic mistake not to let young undocumented immigrants, called “Dreamers,” remain in the United States.
“There is something wrong in separating families,” Miguel “Mike” Fernandez said, after delivering a speech to students and faculty at Florida A&M University. “That is a universal wrong. We are doing that in DACA.”
DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows children brought to the country by their undocumented-immigrant parents to remain in the U.S. Former President Barack Obama put the program in place by executive order.
But the Trump administration this week rescinded the order, with an effective date of six months, giving Congress time to enact its own version of a DACA plan.
The Cuban-born Fernandez, who is a billionaire Miami businessman, supported Jeb Bush in last year's presidential primary, but broke with his party over Trump's anti-immigration stances and spent some $3 million in a campaign against Trump.
“If the president talks about Mexicans, murderers, criminals, rapists and so on, these (the Dreamers) are the very best. These are the opposite,” Fernandez said. “These are the students who are working hard. They are going to be tomorrow's taxpayers.”
Fernandez, 65, who has created a number of health-care companies and later sold them, said Florida has more than 32,000 immigrants protected under DACA, and he estimates they will pay $6.7 billion in taxes over their lifetimes.
“It's an economic issue,” he said. “Throw them out?”
Fernandez's own story as a Cuban exile who came to the U.S. as a 12-year-old with his family was the focus of his speech to the FAMU students. Despite his enormous economic success, Fernandez repeatedly emphasized that he did not believe he had any great talents.
“I'm as average as they come,” he said.
He also talked about the many setbacks in his life, including business failures, three failed marriages, two heart attacks and cancer.
“You have to adjust,” Fernandez said. “There is not a linear path to success. Actually, I guarantee you that failure is a necessary step towards your success. If you haven't failed, you haven't pushed yourself hard enough.”
Fernandez distributed 700 copies of his autobiography, “Humbled by the Journey,” and took time after the speech to sign dozens of copies and talk to individual students.
Fernandez's candor was also on display. Earlier in the day, he sent an email to the Tampa Bay Times calling state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, who supports the elimination of DACA, a “bully” and an “intellectual midget.”
“They are just facts,” Fernandez said when asked about the comments. “That's my opinion of the guy.”
Fernandez, who said he has given about $30 million to Republican causes over the last 15 years, also expressed “disappointment” in Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, although he had given $100,000 to help Putnam's Republican gubernatorial campaign.
“I think that we lack in this country people who speak and stand on their backbone,” Fernandez said.
“He's a guy who was fairly normal in his position until he is faced with an opponent who is more to the right. He feels he has to move to the right,” Fernandez said. “I move to where I am, and that's who I respect.”