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Politics

Mario Diaz-Balart: Time to Deal in ‘Reality’ on Immigration Reform

January 28, 2013 - 6:00pm

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, backed the immigration reform proposal from Sen. Marco Rubio and the other members of the Senates "Gang of Eight," saying any changes must cover everything from an orderly path to citizenship to realistic border security upgrades.

Any plan that doesnt deal with the reality, part of that reality is that we have 10 or 11 million people who are illegally here; any plan that doesnt deal with that is not dealing with reality is not dealing with the problem, Diaz-Balart said while appearing on SiriusXM station P.O.T.U.S. (Politics of The United States).

If you have a car that is broken down, it has no tires, no seats, no engine, some might say lets look at a couple of tires in the front, but if that is all we do, shes not going to run very well. Shes not going to run at all. We have to fix whats broken.

The House has yet to come out with an immigration plan, but Diaz-Balart was speaking in response to the major overhaul proposed by Rubio, R-Miami, and seven other senators -- Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., John McCain, R-Ariz., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Richard Durbin, D-Ill, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Their bill, which Rubio and others expressly say isnt blanket amnesty and would establish a means to collect back taxes and impose fines, is expected to be rolled out in March.

In order to put his name to the document, Rubio insisted that any immigrants who gained legal status under the legislation be required to go to the back of the line behind other immigrants who applied to come through legal channels.

President Obama is set to release his own proposals Tuesday afternoon while in Las Vegas. The Obama plan is expected to support many of Rubios and the "Gang of Eight's" blueprint regarding the path to citizenship.

He campaigned on this, and it is something he has spoken about since his re-election, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Monday.

Diaz-Balart said any bill must give noncitizens who have been working illegally in the United States a chance to come forward, but at the same time needs serious, real, nonsense and no-excuses border security and internal security.

Then you have to have a system that works, you have a to have a system that people can legally come to the United States to work and plan and visit, and that is absolutely broken, he added.

Again you have to tell people to come forward now, there is going to have to be some punishment, but you come forward now, because if you dont there will be a no-excuse attitude and youre not going to be able to work and youre not going to be able to stay anymore and youre not going to be welcome.

Aspects of the senators' plan include:

* An immediate strengthening of border security with new technology, including aerial drones, for border patrol agents.

* A Department of Homeland Security blueprint for expanding exit control -- doing as a job, tracking departures of foreigners who leave the country by land as is now done at most airports and seaports.

* Immigrants here illegally registering with the government. After passing background checks and paying back taxes and fines, those immigrants would receive a probationary legal status. Such status would give them the right to live and work legally in the United States. Important: They would not be eligible for most federal public benefits.

* Establishment of a mandatory nationwide program to verify the legal status of new hires. The details of whether that would include some form of identity card remain sketchy.

* Proposed enforcement measures be complete before any immigrant on probationary status can earn a green card.

* Offer major exemptions from requirements for citizenship to young immigrants here illegally, who came to the United States as children; it would give them a faster path to becoming Americans.

* Giving immigrant farmworkers a separate and faster path to citizenship.

Appearing on FOX Business Network with Lou Dobbs on Monday, Rubio called the Senate proposal a good first step.

Its a proposal that I think a lot of people will find exciting and its one that I hope will become a part of whatever package ultimately passes, Rubio said on FOX Business Network.

In the 21st century we cannot have an immigration system where only 6.5 percent of the people who come here do so based on skill. I am a supporter of family-based immigration, thats how my parents came, but in the 21st century our immigration system has to be more skills-based than it is right now and well try to take a first step at that tomorrow when we announce what they call a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) visa.

Rubio also addressed concerns about the bipartisan effort expressed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Ive long shared the same concern and thats why weve outlined it the way we have. What we do here for people that are undocumented is they have to come forward, undergo a background check, they have to pay fines and back taxes and so forth and then all they get is a temporary status basically. Think of it as a probationary status; it allows them to stay in the country and work but they dont qualify for any federal benefits, they cant turn that into citizenship or anything else and theyre going to have to be in that status for a significant period of time. Significant enough so that its a disincentive to do it in the future for anybody.

After that time has elapsed and after we have certified that the enforcement things have actually happened -- because the big mistakes of the past have been theyve done the legalization but they havent done the enforcement and hence its led to 11 million people. I dont want to ever have to do this again, so after both the period of time has elapsed and the enforcement things have happened, then the only thing theyre going to get is the ability to apply for a green card just like anybody else would. Not in a special way, in a regular way by getting in line, qualifying for the visa they applied for, etc. So all we are going to give them a chance to ultimately earn is the chance to do what they should have done in the beginning. And thats try to enter the country illegally. And the other point Ive made is they cannot leapfrog anybody who has applied before them legally. We dont want to see a single person whos done it the right way be disadvantaged as a result of this.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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