Bipartisan Senate group pleased with progress on immigration reform


Leading Democratic and Republican senators said yesterday there were encouraging signs in the push to overhaul US immigration laws – a top priority for US president Barack Obama’s second term – and they would introduce their plan this week.

With Mr Obama set to begin his push for immigration reform with a speech in Las Vegas tomorrow, a group of three Democratic and three Republican senators have been working for weeks on a plan.

One of those senators, Republican John McCain of the border state of Arizona, said on ABC’s This Week the group still had hard work ahead but that he was pleased with the progress and that the principles of a comprehensive plan would be put forward this week.

Mr McCain said the plan was much like a 2007 immigration proposal that died during the presidency of George W Bush. That plan included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, tighter borders, a guest worker programme and requirements for employers to verify workers’ immigration status.

Immigration was largely pushed aside during Mr Obama’s first term as economic concerns weighed more heavily, but the president, who had overwhelming backing from Hispanic voters in his 2012 re-election, cited it as part of his agenda last week.

Mr McCain said the political aspect of immigration reform should sway any Republicans who object to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that.”

Mr McCain said change was also needed because “we can’t go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status.

“We cannot forever have children who were born here, who were brought here by their parents when they were small children, to live in the shadows, as well.”

Encouraging signs

Democrat Dick Durbin, of Illinois, another member of the six-person Senate group, said on Fox News Sunday that work remained to be done but that the progress was encouraging.

“We have virtually been going for maybe 25 years without a clear statement about immigration policy,” he said. “That’s unacceptable in this nation of immigrants.”

Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey who is also a member of the immigration group, spoke on the subject on This Week.

He said that he was cautiously optimistic because of the bipartisan spirit that has prevailed in the recent reform effort. – (Reuters)