From left, Sens. John McCain , Charles E. Schumer , Richard J. Durbin , Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez hold a news conference in January to announce bipartisan agreement on the principals of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Menendez has long been an aggressive advocate of an overhaul, and he’s one of the few members of the group to offer his own bill on the issue in the past three years. Menendez, who is of Cuban ancestry, is one of only two Latino members of the Senate, giving him instant credibility. Over the years, Menendez has earned the trust of liberal immigration advocates, who will be looking for his approval as a sign that their interests have been taken into account. Menendez also has an established working relationship with Rubio, as the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Foreign Relations subcommittee over Latin America.
Rubio, who is also of Cuban descent, is the group’s bridge to the conservative wing. He was in the mix to be GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate and has been floated as a presidential contender for 2016. Rubio conceded that being in the group could benefit him if he seeks higher office. However, he stressed that he’s involved because “This is a major issue that impacts my state and one that I think I am expected to play a role in trying to solve. If I do a good job at this . . . I am sure I will have opportunities to do other things in the future — be it re-election, leaving politics . . . or running for another office.”
Schumer was involved in passing the 1986 overhaul bill as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and he has remained active throughout the decades, including introducing a bill in 2010. His lasting interest is reflected in his 2009 decision to give up a Banking subcommittee chairmanship to retain the gavel of Judiciary’s immigration subpanel. Leading the immigration push could help Schumer soften his reputation as a partisan attack dog. It would also pad his legislative résumé. While he has managed to become the No. 3 Senate Democrat, he has relatively few major legislative accomplishments.
This story has been corrected to reflect the members who have introduced immigration bills in recent years.