(Roll Call) - A bipartisan group of eight senators has agreed on a set of principles that will form the basis for broad immigration legislation they hope to pass this spring.
The principles will be unveiled at a news conference Monday, ahead of a speech President Barack Obama will give Tuesday in Las Vegas laying out his vision for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration policy.
According to a copy of the agreement obtained by CQ Roll Call, the principles include creating “a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required.”
They include remaking “our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families,” the agreement states.
They call for creating “an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers.”
And the lawmakers want to “establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.”
How these goals would be accomplished is still yet to be determined, because a draft bill has not yet been written.
The senators who will unveil the principles Monday include Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona. The Democrats are Charles E. Schumer of New York, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
The group was initially six senators who began meeting after the election, Senate sources said. Flake and Bennet joined over the weekend, but had been tangentially involved, as has Republican Mike Lee of Utah.
“We’re optimistic more may join,” a Senate aide said.
Rubio penned an op-ed for Sunday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal outlining his approach; it closely tracks with the agreed-upon principles.
“Both sides should want this kind of common-sense reform,” Rubio said of the two parties. “To those concerned about illegal immigration, what we have now is de facto amnesty. To those looking to help the undocumented, families will continue being separated by deportations as long as politicians keep bickering and trying to outdo each other.”
Rubio, however, included a warning for Obama. “If what he offers is a process for the undocumented that is more lenient, faster and unfair to those waiting to come legally, it won’t bode well for reform,” Rubio wrote.
The move also comes as on McCain and Menendez said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that they are “optimistic” about the prospects for a bill becoming law.
“There is a new appreciation on both sides of the aisle, maybe more importantly on the Republican [side], that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” McCain said. “I see some glimmer of bipartisanship out there.”
McCain, who has worked on other immigration overhaul efforts over the years, said that while he was focused on increasing pathways to citizenship, he remained concerned about border security, particularly in his home state of Arizona.
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