Bipartisan group of 8 senators reaches deal on immigration changes
A bipartisan group of eight senators plans to announce they have agreed on a set of principles for comprehensive immigration reform.
The deal, which will be announced at a news conference Monday afternoon, covers border security, guest workers and employer verification, as well as a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country.
The eight senators expected to endorse the new principles are Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
According to documents released early Monday, the senators will call for accomplishing four main goals:
--Creating a path to citizenship for the estimated illegal immigrants already in the U.S., contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people here on visas.
--Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.
--Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants.
--Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn't recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.
The principles being released Monday are outlined on just over four pages, leaving plenty of details left to fill in.
A Senate aide tells Fox News the group's principles say important security triggers must be met before a pathway for citizenship is created for illegals. Even then, the principles explicitly state that illegals must go to the back of the line behind would-be legal immigrants, and they will not be eligible for federal benefits while in the temporary legal status.
The aide tells Fox News that although many of the details of the bill still need to be worked out, those involved are encouraged by their progress and the support of senior senators. Members of the group on Sunday said they are seeking to craft a one-step, all-encompassing bill based on the shared principles.
“We are committed to a comprehensive approach to immigration that we can live with,” Durbin told “Fox News Sunday.”
Citizenship has been a sticking point in previous efforts, particularly among Capitol Hill Republicans. However, they appear willing to accept the path to citizenship, in part, so long as the legislation also includes tighter border security.
Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker told Fox he is optimistic but “details matter.”
“We’re at the talking points stage,” he said. “We need to get to the legislation.”
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, also part of the group, said more work is needed on the legislation.
“I’m quietly optimistic we can get it done,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”
McCain, a key player in the 2007 effort on immigration reform, also acknowledged that President Obama’s overwhelming support among Hispanics in the November elections was a wakeup call to Republicans that they need to do more to reach out to that growing part of the population.
The group has been working since the November elections on the legislation and is expected to have a complete bill by March or April.
Several of these lawmakers have worked for years on the issue. McCain collaborated with the late Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on comprehensive immigration legislation pushed by then-President George W. Bush in 2007, only to see it collapse in the Senate when it couldn't get enough GOP support.
Meanwhile, the president is scheduled to go to Las Vegas on Tuesday to talk about fixing “the broken immigration system this year,” according to the administration.
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