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Bipartisan Group of Senators Offers Outline of Immigration Reform

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents assist men returning Mexico after they were apprehended for entering the U.S. illegally. File photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

A bipartisan group of eight senators will unveil a blueprint Monday aimed at achieving immigration reform in the next year, just as President Obama prepares to mount a legislative push of his own with a speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

The four-page outline includes enhanced border security measures, a new employment verification system, guest worker provisions and a “tough but fair” pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants estimated to be living in the country.

The legislation would increase the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance along the border, and bring on additional agents at and between points of entry. Those targets must be completed before the pathway to citizenship can take effect.

Undocumented immigrants with clean criminal records would be granted probationary status after they have paid a fine and back taxes. If they choose to seek citizenship, they would be required to go to the end of the waiting list for a green card, pass an additional background check, learn English and civics, and demonstrate a history of employment.

There are two groups in particular, however, who would be eligible for a more streamlined process: young people who were brought to the country as children and agriculture workers. The plan would allow employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate that they couldn’t recruit a U.S. citizen to do the job.

The eight senators who have signed on to the framework are Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob 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.

Two members of the group appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, and both sounded optimistic about the agreement’s chances of moving forward.

McCain, who worked on an immigration reform package with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in 2007 that ultimately failed because of Republican opposition, said his party was approaching the issue with a fresh outlook.

“It’s not that much different from what we tried to do in 2007,” McCain said. “What’s changed is — honestly, is that there is a new, I think, 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.”

The 2008 GOP presidential nominee said that losses is November’s election sent a clear message to the party.

“I’ll give you a little straight talk. Look at the last election. 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,” McCain said. “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. So I think the time is right.”

Menendez said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the plan’s chances and said he sees the “right spirit” being taken by negotiators on both sides.

He indicated that a pathway to citizenship was a necessary part of any final deal. “Absolutely,” Menendez said. “First of all, Americans support it, in poll after poll. Secondly, Latino voters expect it. Thirdly, Democrats want it. And fourth, Republicans need it.”

Menendez said he had noticed a shift in the GOP stance on the issue. “At one time, pathway to earned legalization was off the table. We were talking about sending people back as touchbacks, if they had any opportunity. That’s not really being discussed. We’re making very significant progress,” he said.

You can read the statement of the senators’ principles here.

The move by the senators follows a White House meeting Friday with Mr. Obama, his senior staff, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and advocacy groups who have been pushing reform for years. Sources in attendance said Mr. Obama reiterated that immigration is his “top legislative priority.”

Advocates who have been detailing economic change in Mexico that has slowed illegal border crossings in recent years hailed the progress.

Mr. Obama will speak Tuesday afternoon at a high school in Las Vegas, where he will push his vision for immigration reform.

NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA offers as its daily tidbit an infographic showing the states that have seen the greatest increase in illegal immigration. Topping the list is Georgia, with a 95 percent rise among the undocumented population from 2000-2011. California and Texas remain the states with the highest number of people in the country illegally.


Mr. Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were all smiles Sunday in an interview with Steve Kroft on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” The former rivals said they have become friends over the last four years.

Clinton was mum on any future plans, but she spoke frankly about her health scare and her desire to take it easy for a while. She also outlined her views in initially accepting the position, noting that if she had been elected president in 2008 she would have wanted Mr. Obama in her Cabinet.

Watch the political portion of the interview here or below:

Part two, where they talk about foreign policy, is here.


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