Senators outline bipartisan immigration plan

Monday, January 28, 2013 - 10:00am

A bipartisan group of senators plans to announce Monday an agreement on reforming the nation's immigration system, which President Barack Obama has called a priority in his second term in office.

The eight lawmakers' proposal includes provisions for a path to citizenship for immigrants already living in the United States, and guest worker and employment verification systems.

The proposal in the Senate and Obama's trip Tuesday to Las Vegas, where he'll press for immigration reform, signal the largest movement in years for major reforms to the county's immigration system.

Aides say the president's Tuesday remarks will touch on the blueprint he's detailed in the past: improving border security, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, and creating a pathway to "earned" citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Those align closely with what the eight senators laid out in a framework of their legislation, though specific details have yet to be hammered out. According to the framework obtained by CNN, the lawmakers will push four "legislative pillars" containing mainly broad stroke measures:

--A "tough but fair" path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, and bolstering the nation's border security.

--Overhauling the country's legal immigration system, including attaching green cards to advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from U.S. universities.

--Establishing an employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers.

--Creating a guest worker program for positions that Americans are either unable or unwilling to fill.

The senators behind the plan are Democrats Chuck 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.

On Sunday, Menendez told ABC's "This Week" that the time was right for pushing major immigration reform through the Senate.

"First of all, Americans support it in poll after poll," he said. "Secondly, Latino voters expect it. Thirdly, Democrats want it. And fourth, Republicans need it."

Though many activists were unhappy with Obama for failing to tackle the issue in his first term, he won 71% of the Latino vote in November against Republican challenger Mitt Romney -- who had said he would drive undocumented workers to "self-deportation" by making conditions so harsh for them that they left the United States.

November's poor showing among Latinos has led to soul-searching for the GOP, which hopes to make gains among the growing voting bloc in coming years.

McCain, a veteran of failed attempts to address the issue during the George W. Bush administration, said the group of senators' proposal isn't "that much different from what we tried to do in 2007."

This time, "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," said McCain, the party's 2008 presidential nominee.

"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 added.

Ahead of his Las Vegas trip, the president met behind closed doors Friday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and vowed to "move the debate forward," and warned that there was "no excuse for stalling or delay," the White House said in a statement.

Rep. Xavier Becerra , D-California, who was at the meeting said that Obama had indicated that immigration reform "is his top legislative priority."

CNN's Dana Bash, Kevin Liptak and Matt Smith contributed to this report.


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