During the August congressional recess, Florida Republican congressman Mario Diaz-Balart has been doing what many other immigration reform proponents have been busy doing – talking to different groups about the need to reform the nation’s current immigration laws. On Tuesday, Diaz-Balart spoke to a small group of Latino business leaders in the section of Miami known as Little Havana. “They talked about their concerns, and it was all very helpful,” says the Congressman.
Bernie Navarro, president of the Latin Builders Association, was the meeting’s main organizer. He says his group wants to ensure that under new immigration legislation, the number of people allowed to come in to work in industries such as construction is sufficient to meet labor demands.
“We want to make sure our positions are taken into account when he goes back to Congress,” says Navarro about Diaz-Balart. Navarro says others in his group want to make sure that those who have been pursuing citizenship legally are not put at a disadvantage if there is any immigration legislation. He does say, however, that most of the business leaders he talks to are open to immigration reform. “We want to make sure the U.S. thrives,” Navarro says.
The issue is whether House members returning from the August recess will be receptive to lawmakers such as Diaz-Balart. The Florida Republican is one of 7 bipartisan members working to craft legislation that would pass muster in the Republican-led House.
“The good news is we have a good package,” says Diaz-Balart to NBC Latino, “but there are areas where people have serious concerns.” One area continues to be border enforcement, and Diaz-Balart says it goes beyond Obama.
“Every administration has promised to secure the borders and has not been able to, so there is a legitimate distrust that the Administration could enforce this issue,” he explains. Another is the rule of law. “Their concern is that folks who broke the rule of law do not have a special right or additional right to those who did not break the law.”
While the Cuban-American congressman says House members need to close the loop on these two issues, “we’re closer now than one month ago.”
But he also acknowledges the compressed schedule. “Time is our enemy,” Diaz-Balart says. Unforeseen circumstances like Syria and issues such as the debt ceiling can take up a lot of time on the House floor.
“If we don’t get it done this year, it gets more difficult,” he says. The Florida Republican made his preference very clear. “I would like to get it done this year.”