Associated Press
January 25, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House and a bipartisan group of senators will launch separate efforts next week to jumpstart negotiations to overhaul the immigration system, an issue that has languished in Washington for years.

Obama will start his second-term immigration push during a trip to Las Vegas Tuesday. The Senate working group is also aiming to outline its proposals at about the same time, according to a Senate aide.

Even before those plans are formally unveiled, there is emerging consensus on several key components, most notably the need for some kind of pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States. The White House and Senate Democrats favor addressing immigration through a broad package of legislation, while some Republicans lawmakers prefer to tackle the issue through several separate bills.

The proposals will mark the start of what’s sure to be a contentious and emotional campaign in the wake of 2012 election results that saw Latino voters turn out in large numbers to re-elect Obama – a signal to some Republican leaders that the party needed to change its posture on immigration.

The aim of the Senate group is to draft an immigration bill by March and pass legislation in the Senate by August, said the aide, who requested anonymity in order to discuss private deliberations. The Republican-controlled House would also need to pass the legislation before it went to the White House for the president’s signature.

For Obama, a successful push on immigration reform would be a promise kept to the Latino community after he disappointed many by failing to act on the issue in his first term, and it could be central to his legacy. The president met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus at the White House Friday to discuss his upcoming proposals.

Following his re-election, Obama pledged to make immigration reform a top second-term priority.
“I think we have talked about it long enough,” Obama said during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” in December. “We know how we can fix it. We can do it in a comprehensive way that the American people
support. That’s something we should get done.”

Administration officials say Obama’s second-term immigration push will be a continuation of the principles he outlined during his first four years in office. The basis for the president’s plan is expected to be his 2011 immigration reform “blueprint”, which calls for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, increased border security, mandatory penalties for businesses that employ unauthorized immigrants and improvements to the legal immigration system.

For Republicans, tackling immigration reform could be a way to broaden their appeal among Latino voters who are increasingly key to presidential elections. Latino voters accounted for 10 percent of the electorate in
November, and 71 percent backed Obama over the 27 percent who voted for Romney.

In the Senate, lawmakers working on the effort include Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Robert Menendez of New Jersey; and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of
South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, according to Senate aides.

A few other lawmakers have also been involved including Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado and
Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah. It’s not clear whether all those involved will sign on to the principles the group hopes to roll out next week.

Details of the Senate proposals remain unclear but the principles are expected to address a process toward legalizing the status of unauthorized immigrants already in the country; border security; verification measures for employers hiring workers and ways for more temporary workers to be admitted into the country.

On the path to citizenship, Schumer and Graham have in the past supported requiring undocumented immigrants to admit they broke the law, perform community service, pay fines and back taxes, pass background checks and learn English before going to the back of the line of immigrants already in the system.

Several of the senators negotiating the immigration principles are veterans of the comprehensive immigration reform effort under then-President George W.Bush. That process collapsed in 2007 when it came up well-short of the needed votes in the Senate, a bitter outcome for Bush and the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Democrats’ leader on the legislation.

Some Republicans still lament that result as a missed opportunity for the party that could have set the GOP on a different path to reach more Latino voters.

Rubio is a relative newcomer to Senate negotiations on the issue, but he’s seen as a rising star in his party and a potential 2016 presidential candidate. As a charismatic young Hispanic leader his proposals on immigration have attracted wide notice in recent weeks. And as a conservative favorite, unlike McCain or
Graham, his stamp of approval could be critical to drawing in other conservative lawmakers.

A Republican aide said that Rubio has made clear in his interactions with the group that he couldn’t sign on to proposals that deviated from the principles he himself has been laying out in recent media interviews, including
border security first, a guest-worker program, more visas for high-tech workers and enforcement in the workplace. As for the undocumented immigrants already in the country, Rubio would have them pay a fine and back taxes, show they have not committed crimes, prove they’ve been in the country for some time and speak some English and apply for permanent residency. Ultimately citizenship too could be in reach but only after a process that doesn’t nudge aside immigrants already in line, and Rubio hasn’t provided details on how long it all might take.

An open question for the Senate group has been whether Obama would release an actual bill or just his own principles. Republicans in the group tend to believe that a bill handed down by the White House could seriously complicate the process, spooking the GOP by coming off as a purely political move since a White House-written bill would have little chance of actually passing.

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  • noz
    28 January 2013 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    if the reform pass, the 11 million plus illegal aliens will be going through the tough rigor of compliance, to register and be thoroughly evaluated, pay fines, categorized, processed, may bring out the likelihood of skeletons from their own closets are hinders. documentation applications can be a trying time, and complicated to laymen, therefore legal counseling is indispensable, to get it right the first time. this will be a boom for immigration lawyers. taxpayer’s money must not be used for legal counseling of illegal aliens. the 11 million plus illegal aliens status will not be addressed or processed, if the borders remain unsecured, and the true implementation of close monitoring, documenting aliens of the world compliance to exit the USA, once the non immigrant visas awarded to them, as privilege expires. otherwise, illegal aliens will quickly grow back to statistic of millions after a few years, or back to square one. the immigration reform goal is to permanently eradicate status of illegal alien in america. remain to be seen are actual numbers of how many illegal aliens will come forward, ready to tackle what documents are required of them to submit, and be counted. people in general are different and complicated, some may find the immigration reform too hot to handle, that staying hidden for years have become a way of life for years as comfort zone, and peace, getting out exposing oneself can be a nerve wracking, especially for the older illegal aliens.