(In file photo, at right, is Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. (AP Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan, File))

Opinion: So we do have time, Congressman Diaz-Balart?

So we DO have time Congressman Diaz-Balart?

Anyone who follows the immigration reform debate noticed the seismic shift that occurred when Florida Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart uttered the words “I don’t think we’re going to be able to do it this year,” to the Washington Post last week.  For probably the first time in his career, the floor shook under him.  Diaz-Balart is considered a ‘champion’ of sensible immigration reform’ who has been part of a bipartisan group in the House working on legislation for years.

After his comments, he was called a ‘roadblock’ to reform.  Immigrant advocates raced instantly and demoted him from ‘champion’ to ‘so-called’ champion and Hispanic journalists led the charge in calling him out.

Yikes, that’s definitely unfamiliar territory for the congressman.  He’s used to supporters of immigration reform and left-leaning organizations lauding him as ‘one of theirs’ and he’s worn that badge with pride.  In fact for the past five years, he’s been on Hispanic television nearly every week pointing his finger at the president saying that he broke a promise and that Republicans were not to blame.

But then, five months ago, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill.  Months later, the House followed suit with a Democrat-led bill, to which a few Republican legislators, including Diaz-Balart’s fellow Florida legislator Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen signed onto.  All of a sudden he was at a crossroads. He could publicly and vociferously demand that Speaker Boehner allow a vote so that we could once and for all pass reform this year.

What did he do?  He panicked.  He talked to one of the most important newspapers in the United States and, saying that he was ‘just stating the facts;’ he gave his obstructionist party all the protection they needed to do what they wanted to do, nothing.

Luckily for all of us that actually want to see a reform, the community wasn’t having it.  It made those that were relying on him to lead in his party able to see past him and focus on the Republicans that were actually willing to lead on this issue and take Republicans to task.

But perhaps missing the limelight and the warm embrace of his friends, now Congressman Diaz-Balart wants back in.  Today, he put out a statement asking Speaker Boehner (who was confronted by immigrant kids while trying to eat his breakfast this morning) to ‘not limit our options on immigration.’

RELATED: Boehner’s immigration comments trigger reaction from immigration advocates in Congress

Wait – what?  So there’s still time?  So Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart actually has time to prove his loyalty and leadership to the millions of immigrants he’s pledged it to time and time again?

Congressman Diaz-Balart: being a leader means demanding a vote from Speaker Boehner.  Being a leader means signing on to the bipartisan immigration reform bill in Congress or introducing one of your own.  Being a leader means being the bull in the china shop of the Republican Party every remaining day of the legislative calendar on behalf of the millions of people that you’ve looked in the eyes and told you cared.  There’s still time to get immigration reform done, this year, but you, Congressman, need to be a leader.

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Gabriela Domenzain is a leading expert on Hispanic media and community engagement with over a decade of experience in Hispanic activism, journalism and political communications.  Most recently, she served as a spokesperson and senior staff for President Obama’s re-election campaign. 

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