GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, a key player in the House on immigration, just met with the House GOP leadership to make one final plea that Republicans act on immigration reform in the face of the current crisis. He was told that it is dead for the year.
In an interview with me just now, Diaz-Balart confirmed the meeting, and said he is “very disappointed” in his party’s decision not to move forward. Crucially, he cast the GOP leadership’s refusal to move forward as the key obstacle to reform. He said he had legislation ready to go, and that his conversations convinced him that a solid number of Republicans and Democrats would have supported it.
Diaz-Balart also broke with his party on immigration in two key ways. He said that the current crisis at the border is an argument for reform, not against it. And he dismissed the argument made by many Republicans — that the proper response to the current crisis is to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Obama’s program to defer the deportation of the DREAMers.
“I’m seriously disappointed,” Diaz-Balart told me. “We have a historic opportunity to fix a system everyone knows is broken. We’re squandering that opportunity. The bottom line is, we have a bill that is ready to go. We had bipartisan support. And yet I’ve been told we’re not going to move forward this year.”
The bill Diaz-Balart is talking about has not been released publicly, but reporting by this blog and others indicates that it would probably offer some sort of legal status to the 11 million, packaged with concurrent border security triggers that would have to be met for the process to continue moving forward — the basic outlines of the solution that everyone knows would form the basis for compromise on this issue, if Republican leaders would allow it to move forward.
Diaz-Balart dismissed the idea — pushed by many Republicans — that the deferral of deportations of DREAMers has caused the current crisis. Many have called for an end to DACA — casting it as a magnet for newly arriving kids — which is functionally a call to deport the DREAMers.
“I disagree,” Diaz-Balart said of that argument. “There’s something to be said for the idea that the president’s incoherent policy has made this situation worse. But we have a crisis of thousands of unaccompanied kids that are now in our custody. I don’t know how deporting someone who has been here for many years, who has done everything, gone to school — I don’t know how that helps.”
Diaz-Balart dismissed the idea that the current crisis is a reason not to move forward on reform, as many Republicans have argued, claiming it is further proof of Obama’s failure to secure the border and hence proof he can’t be worked with to solve the broader crisis.
“The current crisis has thrown a bucket of cold water on reform, and to me, that’s interesting,” Diaz-Balart said. “It’s precisely another demonstration that we have a broken system that has to be fixed. And we have legislation to do that.”
Diaz-Balart’s comments provide another indication that the primary obstacle to moving forward on solving the broader crisis here has always been the House GOP leaderships refusal to do so. The Republican reaction to the current border mess — treat it as an argument against broader reform, when it is actually an argument for it — only further underscores this basic overarching truth about the debate.