(WASHINGTON) — Declaring this is the year that Congress will finally get immigration reform passed, the so-called Gang of Eight bipartisan Senators released their principles for the path forward Monday on Capitol Hill.
“I’m optimistic. I’m truly optimistic,” Sen. Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a press conference on Capitol Hill Monday. “We’re asking our colleagues in the Senate and the House to join us in this difficult work. It’s time to work together to pass legislation that improves our security, grows our economy and ensures that we will continue to be a nation that lives up to the values of our founders.”
Not a word of legislation has been written, indicating how much in its infancy this proposal really is. The senators referred to the proposal as a “statement of values” that provide a “starting point” for a longer-term approach with details to be worked out later.
“The details of a bill would have to be crafted, and those details are going to involve input from a lot of — first of all, from this group but ultimately from all the members of the Senate and, if it’s to become law, including the House,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said.
Senators hope to have these principles turned into legislation by March, with the goal of passage out of the Senate by late spring or summer.
Why will this effort stand a chance now when it has failed in the past? Sen. McCain answered point blank: elections.
“Elections. The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens. And we realize that there are many issues in which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a pre-eminent issue with those citizens,” McCain said. “We have to address the issue, and it has to be done in a bipartisan fashion.”
The four proposals are as follows:
1. The creation of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing the nation’s borders.
2. Reform the nation’s legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families.
3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers.
4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs while simultaneously protecting all workers.
Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., who sets the Senate floor schedule, said Monday that he “hopes” to have a bill to send through the committee process “soon” and bring it to the Senate floor for a vote shortly thereafter.
In the Senate, as of now, there were not many who spoke out against the broad proposals. But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., splashed a little cold water on the enthusiasm over the proposal, reminding people that the past attempts at immigration reform also started with similar optimism and failed.
“I would, however, warn my colleagues that a framework is not a bill,” Sessions said. “No one should expect the members of the Senate are just going to rubber stamp what a group that have met and decided. We’re not just going to rubber stamp what the president of the United States has just decided. And — because we need to analyze it.”
The Gang of Eight Senators have spoken to President Obama about their proposals and report back that he “strongly supports” this effort.
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