MIAMI — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, the newest candidate in the Republican presidential field, drew some distinctions between himself and his rivals Thursday, suggesting that the six-week abortion ban signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is too severe and showing an openness to changing the country’s immigration system.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Suarez expressed support for a 15-week federal abortion ban, saying the country “is not there yet” on six weeks. He also said his status as the only Hispanic candidate in the GOP race gives him “a lot of credibility” in a conversation about reforming immigration laws, though he was vague about what he’d propose.
“I do think that we need to right-size legal immigration and that it should be connected to our employment rate and our declining birth rate,” said Suarez, who has Cuban ancestry. “And I do think we have to do something with those who are undocumented in our country.”
Suarez Officially Announces Candidacy
Suarez, 45, made his candidacy official Wednesday by filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. He announced his run Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” evading questions about the GOP primary front-runner, former President Donald Trump, who appeared in federal court in Suarez’s city two days ago on charges he illegally hoarded classified documents and refused government demands to give them back.
He is the third Florida resident to launch a 2024 bid for the White House, but the race so far is largely seen as a contest between the two other candidates in his state: Trump and DeSantis. Suarez has said he did not vote for Trump for president in 2016 or 2020 or for DeSantis for governor in 2018, though he did end up backing him in 2022.
Suarez spoke Thursday at the Reagan Library in California, repeatedly praising his father, Miami’s first Cuban mayor, who traveled with him. He said that under President Joe Biden’s administration, inflation was high, homelessness was worsening and the country was losing its influence around the world.
“We must not shy away from the challenges that will allow us to continue to deliver generational prosperity,” Suarez said. “To meet this challenge, we need a strong leader who shares America’s values, who understands that unity is more powerful than division.”
Suarez’s Stance on Abortion
When it comes to abortion, Suarez indicated to the AP that the limits in the new law in Florida and other states are much stricter than what he would support as president.
“Look, I think that the country is not there yet,” he said of the six-week ban, which is before many women know they are pregnant.
He said he would back a 15-week federal abortion ban with rare exceptions, in line with a plan proposed by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina last year that more moderate Republicans tried to distance themselves from before the midterm elections.
“We are in a situation where 70% of the country agrees with a limitation of 15 weeks where there is an exception for the life of the mother and an exception for rape and incest, and I think that is a position that will save a tremendous amount of babies,” Suarez said. “If there was that kind of federal law, that’s one that I would support as president.”
The six-week abortion ban in Florida will take effect if the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge that is before the state Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives.
Abortion has been a top issue in the Republican presidential field so far, with candidates including DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence supporting six-week bans. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, like Suarez, has backed a 15-week federal ban, while former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has said she supports a federal ban but hasn’t specified at how many weeks.
Trump, whose appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, has suggested that Florida’s six-week abortion ban is “too harsh” and blamed Republican abortion hard-liners for GOP losses in last year’s midterms.
Suarez’s Stance on Immigration
On immigration, Suarez acknowledged there is a need to secure the border and change the immigration system. Many of Suarez’s Republican rivals back hard-line immigration policies, including deploying troops and reinstating a Trump policy that made asylum seekers wait in Mexico.
DeSantis has said Trump did not follow through his promises to toughen the border and has pledged to do more, telling voters recently in South Carolina that he would shut the border down.
During his term in office, Trump enacted more than 400 immigration policy changes, including separating children from their parents at the border with no plans to reunite them.
In the interview, Suarez also addressed questions about a recent Miami Herald report saying the FBI is investigating payments he received from a developer who was looking to secure permits from the city. He said he has not been contacted by investigators.
Suarez said he has reached out to the Miami-Dade County’s Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, which is reviewing the allegations with state prosecutors.
“I’m confident and I have said that I will not use and did not use my official position to benefit any private party, and nor will I ever do that as mayor or as president,” he said.