Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Immigration | Rep. Diaz-Balart Immigration Reform Will Pass This Year or Not at All

Rep. Diaz-Balart: Immigration Reform Will Pass This Year or Not at All

By Todd Beamon and Kathleen Walter   |   Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013 11:08 PM

If comprehensive immigration reform does not pass Congress this year, it won’t pass at all, Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.

“I want to get it done this year. If it’s not done this year, I don’t think it passes,” the third-term Republican tells Newsmax. “I don’t think we can get it done. It gets more difficult, so it has to be done the first year of this new Congress.

“Is it possible? Yes. Is it a done deal? No. Will it be easy? No,” Diaz-Balart added. “But, it goes back to the question: ‘Do we think we have an immigration system that’s broken?’ I think it is.

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“Are we willing to roll up our sleeves and do what it takes without violating the rights of those who have been waiting patiently in line, while securing our borders? Is there a will to do that? I think there is. Reasonable people will arrive at very similar solutions.”

Diaz-Balart, 51, a Cuban-American, is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and is a founding member of the Congressional Hispanic Conference of Hispanic Republican representatives. He long has been active on the issue of immigration reform.

He supports the immigration plan recently put forth by his fellow Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio, who is among the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators who have proposed a framework for a similar plan by the Senate.

“The American people recognize that we have an immigration system that’s absolutely broken,” Diaz-Balart says. “It’s broken for our national security interests — we have porous borders. It’s broken for our economic interests. It’s broken for the 12 million people who are here who are undocumented.

“We have to finally do what, frankly, everybody knows we’ve had to do for years: Let’s fix what’s absolutely broken. In the House, we have been working on it, in a bipartisan way, for years. We think we are close enough to propose legislation to finally fix what the American people know is absolutely broken.”

Diaz-Balart says political realities require any final plan to be bipartisan.

“The Republicans control the House; the Democrats control the White House and the Senate. You’re going to pass something of this magnitude, it has to be bipartisan.

“In order to reach that center, which is a bipartisan solution, we’re all going to have to make some concessions,” he adds. “But I’ll tell you some concessions that should not be made: The United States has not only the right, but also the responsibility, to determine who comes in and comes out, so we have the responsibility to protect our borders.
“We also need to make sure that we deal with the folks who are already here in a legitimate way, in a humane way, but that does not violate the rights of those who have been waiting in line patiently and through the legal process.

“Can we accomplish that? I’m sure we can — and hopefully, we can get to do that this year.”

Once such a plan is in place, the Democrats have one fewer weapon to “bash” the GOP with, Diaz-Balart says.

“The Democrats have used immigration as a political issue. They’ve never wanted to solve the issue before — and the Republican leadership in the past has never wanted to solve it, either. It’s been a good political issue for Democrats. It’s been a horrible political issue for Republicans.

“If we’re able to, in a bipartisan way, but more importantly in a responsible way, solve that issue, then — and only then — Republicans can go to this great, hard-working community, the Hispanic community of this country, and talk about education, about opportunities, about job-creation, about being the land of opportunity.

“The Republican Party is the party of opportunity — of future opportunity and present opportunity,” Diaz-Balart adds. “Unfortunately, the Democrats keep using immigration as the issue that blocks Republicans from talking to the fastest-growing segment of our population.”

Looking to the 2016 presidential race, Diaz-Balart says the strongest GOP ticket hails from Florida in his opinion: former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rubio.

“Wouldn’t it be great? I’d love to see those two. If you look at the reforms then-Gov. Jeb Bush made in education, they have become a model throughout the country. When you look at Marco Rubio now, his leadership is being recognized around the country as a shining star — not only among Republicans, but as a shining star for the country.

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“We know Marco Rubio very well, and we know Jeb Bush very well,” he adds. “The country would be very well served. It was very well served with Jeb Bush being governor, and it is being very well served now with Marco Rubio as senator.

“Imagine what they could do with both of them — or even one of them — in the White House?”

Asked which one should head the GOP ticket, Diaz-Balart was not as forthcoming.

“I’m not going there,” Diaz-Balart responds, chuckling.

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