On this week’s episode of “Majority Minority,” Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, R-Fla., explains why he thinks an immigration overhaul could be passed under President Donald Trump and how it feels to be called one of the Cuban Kennedys.
A member of one of the most prominent Cuban exile families, Diaz-Balart is a former state legislator, an eight-term congressman and a nephew by marriage of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
His brother Lincoln spent 18 years in Congress, helping to lead a powerful Cuban-American bloc. Another brother, Jose, is anchor of the Saturday evening edition of “NBC Nightly News.” Their father was the majority leader of the Cuban House of Representatives and the undersecretary of the interior under Castro’s predecessor, President Fulgencio Batista.
On the podcast, Diaz-Balart shares how his parents encouraged each of them to serve the public. He talked about why it’s important to have Cuban-Americans in Washington representing the views of the community in South Florida. He talked skeptically of the many polls that find a growing number of Cuban-Americans support President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba.
“The reality is this,” Diaz-Balart said. “If you ask a 19-year-old Cuban-American what’s on your mind, Cuba doesn’t come up. They’re wondering what’s their next job going to be. What car they’re going to drive. Who they’re going to date. When, however, the issue comes up, who are the most aggressive ones, it’s the young folks. And you saw that when Castro died. Look at the folks in the streets. It’s young people. The reality is a lot different than in those polls.”
But the issue that Diaz-Balart probably has done the most work on is immigration. Since about 2009, he and a bipartisan group of House members have clandestinely met on and off trying to hammer out an immigration-overhaul bill that would pass muster among Republicans. He hasn’t succeeded yet, but he says he’s not willing to give up and sees a window of opportunity under Trump.
Trump has said he’s open to a large-scale immigration bill if Republicans and Democrats can reach a compromise, and Diaz-Balart thinks he could come through, although not in the near future.
Noting the saying that only President Richard Nixon could have gone to China, Diaz-Balart seemed to indicate that perhaps only Trump, with such a strong reputation for immigration enforcement, could make such a move without jeopardizing his credibility.
“This president has said some things in that area that have been very negative,” Diaz-Balart said. “But in conversations I’ve had with the administration, I believe there may be a window of opportunity to actually do something on this issue. Is that window open today?”
But what excites the congressman the most? This week it’s that Waffle House is coming to Miami-Dade County. Describing the food as a delicacy, Diaz-Balart said meeting the CEO of Waffle House was like meeting the Beatles or Mick Jagger.
“Their pecan waffles are a delicacy,” Diaz-Balart said. “I like to do meetings at Waffle House. I know where they are. I have the app on my phone.”