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Four Democratic senators who are working in the bipartisan group of eight to draft immigration legislation met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday afternoon to brief him on the group’s progress.
“The senators went over the bipartisan framework agreed to with Republican senators ... last month and discussed the ongoing negotiations over specifics of upcoming legislation,” said a senior Democratic aide.
The four Democrats — Charles E. Schumer of New York, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado — are working with four Republicans to develop legislation. Those GOP senators are John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
The principles in the framework include providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, overhauling the legal immigration system, reducing the hiring of undocumented workers and securing the border.
“The senators said the bipartisan negotiations were progressing well and that both sides were working together in good faith,” the aide said. “The senators said they remain confident that a bipartisan bill could be agreed to in the coming weeks.”
The official White House readout of the meeting reported that Obama reiterated his position that any bill should include provisions to strengthen border security, create a path to citizenship, hold employers accountable for hiring undocumented immigrants and update the legal immigration system. The president also told the Democratic senators that if their efforts stalled, he “stands ready to introduce his own legislation if Congress fails to act.”
Earlier Wednesday, Durbin characterized the talks as “tough” but “positive.”
“There are very strongly held feelings on both sides, but a determination to come up with a bill,” Durbin said.
McCain said Wednesday that it’s been “tough” and there are a lot of issues to deal with, but he noted “we’re making progress.”
While they have yet to reach agreement on legislation, Rubio agreed.
“Obviously we all have our principles,” he said Wednesday. “To the extent that we can find a solution, that’s good. But we’ll see. There is a lot of work to be done, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, but I am cautiously optimistic that we can produce something that is responsible and that can gain the support of most of our colleagues.”