In Miami, a hub of Cuban and Venezuelan exiles, about the most politically lethal thing a lawmaker can do is to speak about Communism in a positive way.
But that is what U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat, did Tuesday night during a Google Hangout about immigration and crimes along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a discussion about the issue, the Cuban-American noted that El Paso, Texas, known as being one of the country’s safest cities, is directly across from Juarez, Mexico, one of the most dangerous in the hemisphere.
And then he added: “It happens to be across the border from the most dangerous city in the Americas, which is Juarez, right? And two of the safest cities in America, two of them are on the border with Mexico. And of course, the reason is we’ve proved that Communism works.”
“If you give everybody a good, government job, there’s no crime,” Garcia said.
His point, apparently, was to say that border cities that have a lot of people employed in government jobs have low crime rates.
Then he added that the Republican push for pumping so much money into border security – which has created many of those government jobs – was misguided because it was failing to keep people from crossing over.
“But that isn’t what we should be doing on the border,” he said. “The kind of money we’ve poured into it, and we’re having diminishing returns.”
Garcia’s comment produced a backlash in the local and national media. The congressman, however, says it is preposterous to interpret his comment as an embrace of Communism.
"This is an absurdity,” he told the Miami Herald when they asked him about the controversial comment. “Accusing the son of Cuban immigrants of believing in Communism is just ridiculous.”
Garcia blamed America Rising PAC, the Herald reported, for creating a stir over the comment and, he suggested, blowing it out of proportion.
America Rising PAC is a Republican opposition research firm that, according to Politico, aimed to “become a content-focused site featuring negative news and oppo [opposition] research about Democratic candidates.”
Garcia in the past has held high-ranking posts in conservative Cuban exile lobby groups that push for democracy in Cuba.
Garcia, a former practicing Miami lawyer who beat incumbent Rep. David Rivera, a Republican, in 2012 in the race to represent Florida’s 26th congressional district, is up for re-election in November.