Immigration reform framework by March
A bipartisan group of senators have pledged a statement of principles on a comprehensive immigration package that would bring a path of citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
The framework, agreed upon by eight senators, led by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), will address four key areas, including securing the border, reforming the legal immigration system, establishing an effective E-Verify system and creating a system for admitting future workers.
Five of the eight senators presented their conclusions at a Monday afternoon news conference at the U.S. Capitol.
“The key to the compromise is to recognize that Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration,” Schumer said.
McCain, who Schumer called ‘the glue’ that held the deal together, said that the plan is “difficult, but achievable” and that the toughest part of the plan is dealing with current illegal immigrants.
“We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food, clean our homes and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great,” McCain said.
Along with McCain and Schumer in the gang of eight are Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael E. Bennett (D-Colo.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
Rubio, who began floating his plans for immigration reform late last year, said that he recognized the importance of a working immigration system for America’s heritage and future.
“I am so pleased that the first principle in this effort is to modernize our legal immigration system so that it reflects the reality and need of the 21st century,” Rubio said.
Rubio drew ire from some on the right when he released some of his immigration ideas in an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, but conservatives like radio host Mark Levin have relaxed their criticism of the Florida senator in recent weeks.
In the daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was pleased with the group’s progress, but didn’t give President Barack Obama’s endorsement.
“It’s an important first step we’ve seen from Congress,” Carney said, but noted that the president’s own immigration proposals have been “out for a long time,” as Human Events’ John Gizzi reported from the White House briefing Monday.
However, Schumer said that the president “couldn’t be more pleased” and “strongly supports the efforts” when both Schumer and Durbin met with the president Jan. 27.
The group recognized the past failures of bipartisan immigration agreements, such as in 2007 and 2009, and acknowledged that times are different.
“We believe that this will be the year that Congress gets it done. The politics of this issue have been turned upside down. For the first time ever, there is more risk in opposing immigration reform, than supporting it,” Schumer said.
When asked about the chances of the legislation facing opposition in the Republican-controlled House, McCain was optimistic that it would reach some sort of consensus but recognized that “we won’t get everyone on board.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement to Talking Points Memo that he “welcomes the work of leaders like Sen. Rubio on this issue and is looking forward to learning more about the proposal in the coming days.”
Durbin indicated his 2001 DREAM Act would be an integral part in the framework. The act, which would grant permanent residency to illegal immigrants who finished high school and were brought to the country as minors, was last voted on in the Senate in 2007. Both McCain and Graham did not vote in support of the act then.
The group hopes to have the framework in legislative form by March and marked up by the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in late spring or summer.