Immigration advocates have also been keeping the heat on lawmakers. On Wednesday, thousands rallied outside the Capitol to call on Congress to move quickly to grant citizenship to the 11 million people living in the country illegally.
Speaking to the crowd, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., sought to reassure that the bill is coming soon.
“The gang of eight senators, of which I am one, have come to an agreement on all the major issues,” Menendez said. “We are writing the bill as we speak, and it will be a strong foundation that we believe can be used at the Judiciary Committee starting next week, then move to the Senate.”
Further Details Emerge
The bill would put undocumented immigrants on a 10-year path to a green card, which could ultimately lead to citizenship, according to a Democratic aide.
The path would be contingent on stopping 90 percent of attempts to cross the border in high-risk areas, the aide said, confirming earlier reports. It would also be contingent on putting in place a workplace verification program known as E-Verify and on improving the entry and exit monitoring system. Right now, roughly 40 percent of people living in the country illegally entered lawfully but overstayed their visas.
The aide said those enforcement and border security measures are not a “trigger” to putting people on a path to citizenship but are instead a “goal,” suggesting that they would not be used to deny people the chance to become Americans.
Earlier Wednesday, Graham said that border and interior security measures would be central to the legislation.
“We’ve spent $18 billion on the border since 2006. It’s more secure than it was,” he said. “There are things we’re going to do on the border to make it more secure but interior enforcement’s the key. People come for jobs.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.