A leading House Republican advocate for immigration reform on Friday urged President Obama to use caution in making any statements about using executive action on the issue.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said suggestions from Obama that he will act unilaterally will only intensify distrust in the Republican Party, which is divided over doing anything on the issue.
Diaz-Balart said the threat of executive action and the administration's use of it in the past — in particular to delay parts of ObamaCare — are the GOP's biggest challenge.
“So that kind of statement, and actions that show that that is just not bravado are frankly our biggest obstacle,” he said on a conference call Friday.
“That statement is not helpful, other statements like that are not helpful. But more important it is the actions of this administration,” he added.
Diaz-Balart said most of Obama’s recent comments on immigration have been helpful — including his remarks during the State of the Union address and in a CNN interview on Friday that he does not want to prejudge the process.
“I think they have been constructive. I think he realizes this is a very delicate issue,” Diaz-Balart said. “It is very controversial, and I think his recent statements have been very, very positive in allowing us to move forward.”
Diaz-Balart has said that the toughest obstacle for immigration reform is the GOP’s distrust of the administration. But if the House can write a bill that has significant enforcement triggers, a lot of the reluctance will melt away, he said.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), who was also on the call, said the new GOP push was a positive step. He looks forward to getting into the specifics and putting some “meat on the bones” of the principles with legislation. He pointed out the proposal does not rule out eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“You know what, the Republicans aren’t saying they must permanently stay in the status,” he said. “That is not what they are saying. So there isn’t any permanent second-class citizenship, as I’ve read. Now a lot of this is going to be in the specifics.”