Schumer: Immigration bill will be done by March

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday said he thinks that Congress can get immigration reform done by March 2011, if not by the end of this year.

While speaking at a fundraising event for the Irish Lobby for Immigration reform in New York while on recess, Schumer praised his former negotiating partner Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), noting that Graham took his cues from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

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"While Lindsey Graham is a great partner and he loves our bill” Schumer said, he really said his mentor was McCain, according to IrishCentral.com

Schumer had worked with Graham for months but the Republican senator appeared to back away from supporting the effort after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to rush it to the floor in late April, partly in response to the Arizona law.

Groups are now looking to focus on getting smaller pieces of immigration legislation passed through Congress in the short-term because energy legislation has come to the forefront in party due to the massive BP oil spill that began in late April. 

Schumer's mention of McCain is also worth noting. 

In 2007, McCain attempted to push through a comprehensive immigration reform bill alongside the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) But this year, facing a primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R), McCain has been more skeptical of current immigration legislation in Congress.

Schumer noted that McCain's former negotiating partner, Sen. Kennedy, was his mentor. 

“My mentor was Ted Kennedy.  He was a mentor, like a father figure to me,” he said.

Immigration has played a critical role in McCain's primary race and in his home state. The state passed a controversial immigration law in April to crack down on illegals in response to an uptick in violence and drug carter activity on the border.

McCain has been more focused on border security recently, cutting a campaign ad in which he calls on the government to "complete the danged fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Some Republicans have scoffed at McCain's new stance, citing his previous position on the issue. McCain has said that he would support immigration reform as long as the border is secured first.

Democrats have sought to play up McCain's recent focus on border security, saying that he flip-flopped from his old stance.

President Barack Obama has promised 1,200 National Guard troops and has requested $500 million for border security funds as well, but has criticized the Arizona law.