What was in Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's secret immigration overhaul bill , declared officially dead for the 113th Congress on Thursday afternoon?
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., described it Friday as a bill of "low-hanging fruit on the immigration reform tree," and said "it would have had support to pass."
"The popularity, politically and internally, was very large," Grijalva said in an interview with journalists from CQ Roll Call and The Washington Post during a taping of the C-SPAN "Newsmakers" program that will air Sunday. Diaz-Balart had been working behind-the-scenes to rally bipartisan support for a comprehensive piece of legislation that would fix the broken immigration system add bolster border security. Though the Florida Republican said the bill was complete, he never formally introduced it, no text ever leaked and no whip count was ever divulged.
At a news conference to report that GOP leadership finally told him there would be no vote on his bill, or any immigration overhaul bill, before the end of this year, Diaz-Balart said he didn't know whether he would now come out with all the key details he had withheld during the fragile stages of negotiation, in hopes perhaps of being able to revive the effort next year.
He did say the legislation he was working on had "the majority — of the majority — of support from the House Republican Conference," plus a wide swath of Democratic members prepared to buck their leadership and sign on as co-sponsors.
Grijalva confirmed that assessment, and spoke in general terms about the draft bill's contents in the C-SPAN interview.
He said it would provide special legal status pathways to undocumented immigrants serving in the military — plus protect their spouses and families from deportation, too. He also said there was a provision to let those young undocumented immigrants already qualified for stays of deportation under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order obtain permanent legal status in the United States.
"You know, many of us came to the conclusion that if we can't do the whole comprehensive passage, let's start to pragmatically and incrementally start to pull some things down," Grijalva said. "I'm still open to that discussion. But if there's no substance, and we can't even deal with the low-hanging fruit, it doesn't look good."