Republican Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a longtime proponent of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, says he’s once again open to working on that issue with President Joe Biden.
Díaz-Balart described goals for a larger immigration reform package in a Wednesday statement released as Biden was being sworn in as the nation’s 46th President.
“While I have not seen details of President Biden’s proposal, immigration reform has been a top legislative priority for me in Congress,” Díaz-Balart said.
“As I have continuously stated, we must reach a commonsense solution that secures our borders, bolsters the economy, modernizes our visa system, offers a permanent and humane solution to those living in the shadows, and faithfully adheres to the rule of law. I am fully committed to working with the Biden Administration and my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to fix our broken immigration system once and for all.”
Biden has proposed an eight-year-long pathway to citizenship as part of his immigration plan. Undocumented immigrants in the country as of Jan. 1 would be able to begin a five-year process to achieve temporary legal status if they qualify. Individuals would have to pay taxes and pass background checks.
After that, individuals would be placed on a three-year path to naturalization.
Díaz-Balart’s statement focused on other issues important to Republicans, such as border security and protecting the U.S. economy. And while he didn’t outright support Biden’s framework, Díaz-Balart’s openness to a pathway to citizenship is notable given the GOP’s typical resistance to the policy.
Díaz-Balart has worked before to formulate a citizenship plan, including during the Barack Obama administration. Those efforts died in Congress, and the issue wasn’t seriously revisited during Donald Trump’s one term in office.
Díaz-Balart and other Republicans willing to work on a proposal will find a more willing partner in Biden. Democrats also control both chambers of Congress — though barely. That could give an opening for a sweeping bill to finally become law after nearly two decades of serious work on immigration reform failed to make much progress.