U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Miami, sharply criticized the decision to give up on immigration legislation this year.
In a Washington press conference Thursday afternoon, Diaz-Balart said he had been informed by House leadership earlier in the day that legislation he pushed that would have led to a path to citizenship for immigrants already in the U.S. was dead this year.
His legislation, he said, would have acknowledged that “we are not going to spend tens of billions of dollars to roundup and deport millions of undocumented workers who have been here for many years.” It would have required those who came to the U.S. illegally to earn legal status.
“It is an efficient and effective approach that is good for the American economy and fair to the people who came here legally,” he said.
But on Thursday, he said, he was informed by the Republican leadership that they have no intention to bring the bill to the House floor in 2014.
“It is disappointing and highly unfortunate,” he said.
He added it was “highly irresponsible not to deal with the issue.”
“We were sent here by the American people precisely to tackle difficult issues and not to take the easy way out,” he said. “By blocking reform, whether it was when Nancy Pelosi was speaker or now, we are in effect abdicating our duty. Particularly when we have a president that is willing to unilaterally act through executive action, that he himself has said is legally circumspect, will not provide a long-term solution to our immigration system, and I believe could even make it worse.”
Giving up on broad immigration legislation wasn’t a surprise to much of Washington, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said last month that the issue was effectively dead and unlikely to be pursued until after President Barack Obama left office. The issue shows the divide in a GOP that is trying to appeal both to Latino voters and business leaders who favor legalization and the tea party wing of the party that doesn’t endorse any mass legalization efforts.
As for the possibility of the bill’s success, Diaz-Balart had been optimistic.
“I feel absolutely confident that we had the support of the majority – the majority – of the House Republican conference, and also a very strong group of Democrats,” he said after delivering his prepared comments in both English and Spanish.