Seven-term Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart delivered the Spanish-language response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, differing somewhat from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s English-language response on immigration.
Haley emphasized that she’s the “proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country,” adding “my family didn’t look like our neighbors” and didn’t have much.
“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation,” she said. “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country. At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally, and in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.”
“We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration and it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion, just like we have for centuries.”
Diaz-Balart noted that he’s “the son of Cuban exiles who reminded my brothers and me every day of the blessing of living in this great country.”
“My story is similar to many other Americans. Immigrants have come to our country for generations to live the American dream and their children to live better than them. That is still the dream of all of us,” the congressman continued.
Diaz-Balart echoed the “siren call” in Haley’s address.
“And we’ve seen again and again that this dream is achievable today. We live in an age of threats like few in recent history. In times of uncertainty it can be tempting to follow the siren voices of the most divisive. We must resist this temptation,” he said. “No one working responsibly who complies with our laws and loves America must feel rejected in this country. It is not who we are.”
“At the same time it is obvious that our immigration system needs to be reformed. The current system threatens our national security and is an obstacle to our economy.”
Diaz-Balart, one of the Republicans in the 2013 House “gang of eight” that tried to craft bipartisan immigration reform, stressed “it is imperative that we find a legislative solution to protect our nation, defend our borders, provide a permanent solution to human living in the shadows.”
“Respect the rule of law, modernize the visa system and boost the economy,” he added. “I have no doubt that if we work together we can accomplish this and still be faithful to the noblest legacies of the United States.”
He noted that the San Bernardino attack was one example “of cruelty and hatred towards people because of their faith.”
“They are serious reminders that we must continue to protect freedom of religion, freedom to practice faith without fear of violence. The free expression of ideas and to live without the threat of terrorism,” Diaz-Balart said. “We do not fight against a race or a religion. We turn to God and to the values that have made our country the freest and the most impressive worldwide.”