House Ready to Make Undocumented ‘Real Americans:’ Diaz-Balart

Photograph by John Moore/Getty Images

Migrant farm workers from Mexico a day of harvesting organic vegetables in Wellington, Colorado.

A group of U.S. House members will propose steps to legal status for undocumented immigrants, who shouldn’t be living here permanently without a chance to become “real Americans,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Bringing many of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows” and improving the immigration system would be “great” for businesses and the economy, Diaz-Balart said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Peter Cook for “Capitol Gains” airing April 7. The Florida Republican is a member of a bipartisan House group negotiating a plan.

“Imagine if you legalize folks who are already here,” said Diaz-Balart. “You bring them out of the shadows,” he said, “so that they can become an integral part of the economy.” He added: “For business, this is a win-win.”

Diaz-Balart said the House group won’t allow any “amnesty” for those who are unlawfully in the U.S. “There will be no amnesty in this bill,” he said. “The House is not going to support amnesty for people who are here  undocumented. ”

“It’s not good public policy to have a group of people who are in the United States permanently” that could “never aspire to become real Americans,” he said. “The flip-side of that, however, is you want to make sure that folks who broke the law do not have rights” that others who have done things legally don’t have.

The secretive bipartisan House group has been working on an overhaul of immigration laws for about four years and has “95 percent” of the bill drafted, said Diaz-Balart. A group of senators plans to introduce their own bill next week.

The Republican-led House is taking a slower approach on rewriting the immigration laws than the Democratic-led Senate. The House probably won’t take up a measure until June.

“We’re not in a rush,” Diaz-Balart said. “We don’t have deadlines that we have imposed on ourselves, other than the fact that we want to fix what’s broken.”

“I think we’re very close,” he said. “We’ve had the advantage of having time. We’ve been working on this now for a number of years,”  he said. “Most of the really thorny issues we’ve been able to hammer out and reach agreement on.”

He said: “‘We’re more concerned about getting it right  than doing it quickly.”

The Senate immigration overhaul effort is centered on creating a 13-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. House Republicans may be more open to allowing legal residency rather than citizenship.

Republican opposition to providing a citizenship path, a major stumbling block in past efforts, has lessened since the November election, when President Barack Obama won 71 percent of Hispanic votes cast. Republican leaders have said the party needs to do more to court the fast-growing voter bloc.

Republicans need to resolve the immigration issue because it’s been a “good, successful tool” for Democrats and “political suicide for the Republicans,” Diaz-Balart said.

“Until we can get immigration off the table, we can’t even approach that community,” he said, referring to Hispanic voters. “It’s essential. Until that time, we’re in deep trouble.”

Diaz-Balart said a March 29 agreement between business and  labor leaders on allocating visas to low-skilled foreign workers may not be part of a final plan.

“I don’t think those deals are necessarily going to be the final” part of any legislation, he said, adding that such accords are “guidelines.”

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