tuesday, 29 january of 2013

Senators call their bipartisan immigration plan a ´breakthrough´


Senators call their bipartisan immigration plan a 'breakthrough'

A bipartisan group of senators unveiled on Monday a set of principles for comprehensive immigration legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, contingent on first securing the nation's borders.

The group hopes to have legislation drafted by March, and a vote before the August recess. Speaker John A. Boehner, whose support will be crucial for shepherding any bill through the Republican-controlled House, did not comment on the principles, but his office offered a brief statement.

"The speaker welcomes the work of leaders like Senator Rubio on this issue," referring to Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican. The speaker "is looking forward to learning more about the proposal in the coming days," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner.

Five of the group's eight senators — Charles E. Schumer of New York, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, all Democrats, and Mr. Rubio and a fellow Republican, John McCain of Arizona — made the announcement. Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans, and Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a Democrat, were not present but are part of the group.

The eight senators, Mr. Schumer said, "have come together on a set of bipartisan principles for comprehensive immigration reform legislation that we hope can pass the Senate in overwhelming and bipartisan fashion."

"We still have a long way to go, but this bipartisan movement is a major breakthrough," he said.

The group described four main pillars: border enforcement, employer enforcement, the handling of the flow of legal immigration (including temporary agricultural workers and high-skilled engineers) and a pathway to citizenship for those who entered the nation illegally. Mr. McCain called the pathway to citizenship the "most controversial piece of immigration reform," saying that the current situation amounts to "de facto amnesty" and that the illegal immigrants deserve a chance to live legally in the country and ultimately become citizens.

"We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food, clean our homes and even watch our children, while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great," he said. "I think everyone agrees that it's not beneficial to our country to have these people hidden in the shadows."

Mr. Schumer said that he and Mr. Durbin spoke Sunday evening with President Obama, who plans to deliver his own speech on immigration Tuesday in Nevada, and that "he couldn't be more pleased." Mr. Menendez met with the president Friday as part of a meeting that the White House held with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Democratic and Republican senators alike had feared that any White House proposal could undercut their efforts by frightening away Republican lawmakers skittish about backing Mr. Obama's plan. When it became clear last week that the president planned to detail his own immigration blueprint on Tuesday, they rushed to make their announcement ahead of him. When asked if the senators' proposal was undercutting the president, Mr. McCain replied that he thought their principles helped Mr. Obama.

(Published by NY Times - January 28, 2013)

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