Marco Rubio, Mario Diaz-Balart exemplify split among GOP on immigration reform
WASHINGTON — Immigration — one of the most complex and divisive issues facing the country — suddenly has new life on Capitol Hill.
President Barack Obama vows to make it a priority early next year and Republicans, chastened by the election outcome, are determined to put their imprint on long-elusive reform.
But there is significant disagreement over how to proceed and how far to go, a divide captured by two Floridians, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Sen. Marco Rubio, Cuban-American Republicans from Miami who could be crucial bridges to a bipartisan solution.
Rubio, lifted but also constrained by the issue due to his status as a conservative star with presidential ambitions, wants to go step by step.
"Usually when Congress approaches issues of this magnitude with one big bill, it almost always requires you to swallow five really bad ideas in exchange for one good one," he said in an interview. "We're going to get better public policy if we focus on each of these apart from each other."
Diaz-Balart is echoing Democratic calls, and emerging support among other Republicans, for a comprehensive approach that includes everything from better enforcement to handling the 11 million undocumented residents already living in the United States.
"To pretend you can fix a broken system by tweaking one aspect is not solving the problem. It's broken from A to Z," Diaz-Balart said.
"That's the million-dollar question, which is the better approach?" said Jennifer Korn, executive director of the Hispanic Leadership Network, who was in President George W. Bush's administration when sweeping reform collapsed in 2007 under opposition from both parties.