Created on: January 31, 2013 Last Updated: February 05, 2013
After years of trying to reach some sort of consensus around immigration policy, it appears that a bipartisan plan has finally come to the fore in Congress. Recent attention has focused on the “Gang of Eight,” a group of senators who have come forward with a comprehensive plan to address nagging issues centered around the millions of undocumented immigrants residing in the United States.
Leading from the Senate are Senators Michael Bennett (D-Colo), Dick Durbin (D-Ill), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-Ariz), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-Fla), and Charles Schumer (D-NY). President Obama has shown his general support for the effort.
General outlines of the plan
While Senator Schumer (D-NY) acknowledged that the process would likely take a month or more, the Senate did offer a broad blueprint of what they would like to see included in the legislation. General principles include immediately addressing the path to citizenship, a plan that includes exacting back taxes and a fine from the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the US.
Full citizenship would not be possible, “until the border was secured and new systems were in place for employers to verify workers’ immigration status” according to the “Washington Post.” Visa programs allowing more immigration would be tied to unemployment rates according to the blueprint.
Meanwhile, over in the House of Representatives
Despite the attention-grabbing headlines by the “Gang of Eight” and President Obama, an effort has also been getting under way over in the House of Representatives. According to CNN, a group of House Democrats and Republicans “have worked for weeks behind the scenes to put together their own proposal” with an outline soon to be unveiled. However, CNN noted that “they are not as far along as the Senate,” but they too, will focus on a path to citizenship for immigrants.
House members have also been interacting closely with Senator Rubio (R-Fla) for the past three months, with one House GOP aide noting that he “has had extensive conversations with House members” including “key committee chairmen, as well as influential Conservatives like Rep. Raul Labrador, [as well as] members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”
Why this plan may work
Despite this unusual Congressional bipartisanship, legislation could still run into trouble, and no one expects immigration legislation to enjoy easy passage. One need look only to the failed efforts of 2007 and 2010 to note that this divisive issue is sure to complicate matters.
Why might bipartisanship win out this time? In short, Republicans took a beating in the most recent election, and in no small part that was due to the Hispanic vote, which aligned itself with Democratic leadership. Noted Senator McCain (R-Ariz), “The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic voters.”
“When President Obama got 85 percent of the Hispanic vote [in the battleground state of Colorado], it did not go unnoticed by the Republicans,” noted Senator Durbin (D-Ill). Durbin went on to remark, “When emerging groups become a political force, they are given respect and recognition under the law, and they become part of the power establishment of America. ... And this is the moment for the Hispanic population.”
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New bipartisan immigration plan was in the works for months