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CNN "John King, USA" - Transcript

Interview

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KING: Joining me now to discuss this controversial change, two Republicans with different points of view: Congressman Mario Diaz Ballart of Florida and Congressman Duncan Hunter of California.

Congressman Hunter, let me start with you. You just heard the president there. He says this is not amnesty, and he says it's the right thing to do. Is it?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, first off, John, good to be with you and with my great friend, Mario Diaz Ballart, a great representative, as well, from Florida.

It is amnesty, plain and simple. The president's being disingenuous when he says that. It is an amnesty, and he is making things harder for himself and harder for this immigration fix to actually happen through -- through the U.S. Congress the way that it is supposed to.

The reason that we have this problem now, period, is because our nation's borders are not secured. If you have secured nation's borders, Mario and I might be on the same side of this. I might say all right, not a bad step, but the nation's borders are not secure. You can't promise this won't have to happen every other year to accommodate all of those folks who come here illegally. So by doing this, he has messed up the process.

And he's also made, in my opinion, kind of a permanent sub class of people that are not trying to get citizenship, but are now here in America legally for periods of two years at a time. That's not what we want.

What we want is a permanent immigration fix and an actual secured border here. And this is not a California problem or a Florida problem. It's an American problem, and I think most Americans would agree that, if we're going to fix immigration, you have to secure the borders first. That's not what's happening.

KING: But Congressman Diaz Ballart, the president's argument, his team's argument, is that there's no way Congress is going to pass a comprehensive bill. And so he's going to take this slice, which they think, yes, they think it helps them politically. They also thinks it's the least controversial piece of immigration. Is the president doing the right thing here?

REP. MARIO DIAZ BALLART (R), FLORIDA: John, that's his solution now. The question is, as one who's been supportive of a DREAM Act having an issue for a long, long time is where has he been all this time?

Doug and I don't agree -- don't disagree on this issue. Actually, we all agree that the United States has a right to decide who comes in and who leaves. I think all countries have that right.

And I also agree with him when he says that this actually makes, I think, a long-term, a real fix more difficult. When the president says that he couldn't get it through Congress, how do we know that?

John, I -- my office, my chief of staff and myself, have been contacting the White House, saying let's sit down and let's try to work something out. Let's try to come together and try to have legislation, bipartisan legislation so we can actually have a long- term, a real fix of this issue.

And the president has -- frankly hasn't even called me back, hasn't gotten back to us. He's been totally missing in action, and that's a real shame. This is a real issue.

Now, whether we agree or disagree on, you know, the merits of the DREAM Act. Well, I think there maybe Duncan and I disagree. This makes it more difficult to get a real fix done, and it's pretty evident this is done strictly for political reasons.

He himself said, by the way, as you put it on the show a little while ago, that it couldn't be done administratively. Now he's doing it administratively.

The reality is he could have done it before. The only reason he's doing this, by the way, is because Marco Rubio has legislation out there that was starting to get bipartisan. People were starting to look at it seriously, and the president wanted to kill that, wanted to make sure that Congress didn't do anything, and so therefore he does this. It's really sad that for his election, he may jeopardize legislation that we need to get done to fix this immigration problem.

KING: And what happens now, do you propose, Congressman? What happens to Mitt Romney now? You heard his statements. He was pretty careful. He says yes, he would like to help those young illegal immigrants who, through no fault of their own are here, carried across the border by their parents. But he says this is the wrong way to do it. So you might disagree with him on the solution. But he agrees with you this is the wrong way to do it.

If he -- if Governor Romney now tries to reach for what I'll call the center on this, what happens to him on his right?

HUNTER: Yes, I think he simply has to be honest. I think President Obama is doing it purely for political reasons. He doesn't have a long-term fix. Mitt Romney wants a long-term fix. That's why he looks carefully at Marco Rubio in Florida and some of the other running mates that are, you know, possible with this. But he actually wants a fix to this.

And Obama doesn't. I think that's -- that's why he's being careful. He's not going to go out and be glib and say, "Here's what I'm going to do by presidential fiat." He's going to talk about what Congress can actually do and get accomplished that solves this problem in the long term.

So I don't think you're going to get like, you know, short, stand-by answers out of Mitt Romney on this. Nor should we want that if we want him to be president. We want a deliberative thinking president that's not going to make decisions or deals for political reasons.

KING: And Congressman Diaz Ballart, you think this is the wrong way for the president to do it. You think he makes a long-term comprehensive solution harder. Let me ask you this question, though. In terms of raw politics in your state of Florida, a battleground state, does it help him?

DIAZ BALLART: Short term, it probably does help him; long term, it hurts him. And it also reminds people in the Latino community around the United States that this is a president that said that in his first 12 months, he was going to pass and -- present and pass immigration reform. He's yet to present a bill.

And then he said that he couldn't do this administratively, and now he does it. He shows that he's -- he really just seems to be a president who's not concerned about being president, but he's more concerned about being a candidate, and he will say and do anything to get reelected. That doesn't look good for the president of the United States.

I think again, Mitt Romney, whether you agree with him or disagree on a number of issues, you can count on him. He's serious. By the way, he also knows how to fix the economy.

And I think part of the reason the president has done this now, is not only to try to get some votes that he's lacking, but also to try to divert attention from the real issue, which is the sad state of the economy. President Obama has been a failed presidency. Mitt Romney will get this economy going.

And again, I think the president just looks weak. He looks undecisive [SIC], and he frankly looks like he can't say the truth, no matter what.

KING: Congressman Diaz Ballart, Congressman Hunter of Florida and California respectively. Gentlemen, we'll continue the conversation. Thanks for your time tonight.

HUNTER: Thank you.

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