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'Gang of 8' Immigration Bill Set to Drop

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Some Judiciary Committee Republicans are pushing Leahy, right, to hold more hearings on immigration before moving legislation through the committee.

The bipartisan “gang of eight” senators insists it will be ready to unveil its much anticipated immigration bill in the coming week, despite skepticism from advocacy groups and critics.

They are “planning an announcement next week,” a senior Senate Democratic aide said on April 5, adding that significant progress has been made on the measure.

The aide said that the major provisions of the package have been agreed to and that the group’s time has largely been spent translating the agreement into legislative language, which has proved to be a time-consuming process.

Though Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., two members of the immigration group, were scheduled to make a few media appearances over the weekend, the official bill unveiling will likely come later in the week, the aide said. But it was unclear whether the group would release its package before a pro-immigration reform rally scheduled for Wednesday, with thousands expected to attend.

The group has missed deadlines before and some advocates are not getting their hopes up.

“There is a lot of concern in our movement that delay is not a good thing,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of left-leaning immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, in a March 5 conference call. “We have tremendous momentum and the idea is, let’s build on that momentum by having a bill released” sooner rather than later.

The Senate group initially planned to release a bill before the end of March, but that finish line slipped to April, in part because of the end of March coincided with the two-week spring recess.

The delay has sparked angst among some advocacy groups, such as Casa In Action, which tried to keep the pressure on by protesting at Schumer’s Washington, D.C., offices last month.

Sharry said he believes the Senate group will produce a bill, but he said he wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t unveiled until the week of April 15.

“It’s not like they are taking it slow or that there are major hiccups at this point,” Sharry said. “Its more a matter of doing the painstaking work of legislative drafting and review.

“We are still very optimistic that this bipartisan gang of eight is going to produce a bill that is going to be released. If it takes couple of days to get it done ... I think it’s because they are trying to get it right,” Sharry continued.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., has said he wants to take up the bill as soon as possible to take advantage of the growing momentum for an immigration overhaul, including from the Republican National Committee and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

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