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Senators behind a bipartisan immigration overhaul declared their efforts to craft legislation “a major breakthrough” and hope to pass it by this summer.
In unveiling a set of principles for enhancing border security, providing a pathway to citizenship and creating an employee verification system, the eight senators noted they still have to actually write the bill.
“We still have a long way to go, but this bipartisan movement is a major breakthrough,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who is a member of Democratic leadership and chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s immigration, refugees and border security subcommittee.
He continued, “It’s our hope that these bipartisan principles can be turned into legislation by March and a markup [in the Judiciary Committee] with the goal of passage out of the Senate by late spring or summer.”
The group of senators who drafted the principles includes Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Along with Schumer, the Democrats include Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
Schumer, Durbin, Menendez, McCain and Rubio represented the group at a press conference Monday.
Schumer said he and Durbin had spoken with President Barack Obama Sunday to update him on the group’s progress. “He couldn’t be more pleased. He strongly supports this effort,” Schumer said of the president.
Obama is scheduled to give a speech Tuesday in Las Vegas laying out his vision for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration policy.
Asked if they were trying to overshadow the president by making their announcement before his speech, McCain said, “We think this helps the president.”
“Time is of the essence,” Menendez said.
Members of the group also said they are optimistic about avoiding the pitfalls that doomed previous immigration overhaul efforts.
McCain, who was involved in the failed 2007 effort to pass immigration legislation, said the election made the difference in changing the attitudes of Republicans who had previously opposed such efforts.
“The Republican party is losing the support of our Hispanic voters,” McCain said.
“Also ... we cannot continue as a nation with 11 million people residing in the shadows,” McCain continued. He said, if the group is successful, it would be due, in part, to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., “who laid the groundwork for this agreement.”
Schumer said the public’s attitude has changed on the issue.