Bipartisan group of senators call for 'tough but fair' immigration reform



Protesters hold signs against the trafficking of weapons to Mexico and the failure of the US immigration reform in front of the US embassy on Jan. 21, 2013, in Mexico City.


Ronaldo Schemidt

Immigration reform is near, according to a bipartisan group of senators who say they now agree on basic principles.

At a news conference held on Monday, five of the eight senators behind the plan outlined some of the principles they believe could lead to comprehensive immigration reform, including increasing border security and offering a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the US.

Senators Chuck Schumer, John McCain, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio introduced some of the points which make up a blueprint for immigration reform, which they hoped would quickly make its way through the Senate.

Schumer said the goal was to pass legislation on immigration by late spring or early summer.

The four points the plan stresses are securing our borders, overhauling America's legal immigration system, curbing undocumented workers by holding employers accountable and creating a way for workers to come and work in the US legally.

"We believe this will be the year Congress finally gets it done," Schumer said. He also stressed that this should be a bipartisan effort and, "None of us can get everything we want."

"A bill to strengthen America is more important than any of us clinging to our beliefs," said Schumer before introducing McCain.

McCain called for "tough but fair" immigration reform that would curb the activities of drug smugglers, human traffickers and terrorists. He also said it was necessary to implement "humane and effective" ways for both high-skilled and low-skilled workers to come to the US to work legally.

Durbin said the blueprint was a solid starting point. He also said that legal immigration would be tied to the state of the economy, with Americans getting the first shot at jobs.

Durbin brought up the Dream Act, saying it would be a part of comprehensive immigration reform. "I look forward to happy news for these Dreamers," he said, referring to illegal immigrants who entered the US while they were children and wish to be American citizens.

"Reform is necessary for security," said Menendez. "Reform is critical to the economy," he added. Both he and Rubio addressed the press conference in Spanish as well.

Earlier, on ABC’s This Week, Menendez had said, “I am cautiously optimistic. I see the right spirit. I see things that were once off the table for agreement and discussion being on the table.”

McCain, also on ABC’s This Week, said the legislation's ideas reflect a bill, which he supported, that failed to pass in 2007.

“It is not that much different from what we tried to do in 2007," he said. "What has changed is, honestly, that there is a new appreciation on both sides of the aisle — including, maybe more importantly, on the Republican side of the aisle — that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill."

McCain admitted movement on the Republican side was spurred by the reelection of President Obama.

"Look at the last election. 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," he said.

McCain and Menendez are part of a group of eight lawmakers expected to champion the forthcoming legislation. Democrats Charles Schumer, Dick Durbin and Michael Bennet, and Republicans Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake will endorse the bill, the Associated Press reported.

Senators Rubio, McCain, Schumer, Durbin and Menendez will unveil their plan at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

President Obama has on a number of occasions said he supports comprehensive immigration reform. He's expected to speak in Nevada on Tuesday.