Senators working on drafting an immigration reform bill are "90 percent" finished, Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight Cuomo warns Dems against cutting DACA deal with Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), a member of the bipartisan group, said Wednesday.

"The bottom line is we're very close," Schumer said, striking an optimistic note. "I'd say we're 90 percent there. We have a few little problems to work on, we've been on the phone with our four colleagues all day."

ADVERTISEMENT
Schumer made the comments after he and Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate's defense authorization would set cyber doctrine Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (R-Ariz.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCorker pressed as reelection challenges mount -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground Senate votes down Paul's bid to revoke war authorizations MORE (R-Ariz.), and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetGOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts NFL star claims he was victim of 'abusive conduct' by Las Vegas police Gardner throws support behind DREAM Act MORE (D-Colo.) toured the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Ariz., on Wednesday. The four are all members of the "Gang of Eight" senators who have been drafting a bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.

The group unveiled its framework in January and has been negotiating the details, with hopes to introduce a bill by the end of April.

Schumer and McCain used the post-tour press conference to stress the importance of border security.

"I don't know if this changed my views because Sen. McCain and Sen. Flake made clear what we needed on the border, but I'll be able to explain this to my colleagues," Schumer said. "Many of my colleagues say, 'Why do we need to do anything on the border?' We should."

Heightened border security, a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, as well as measures to boost high-skilled immigration and create a guest worker program will be elements of the final package.

With strong Republican opposition to measures that would grant legalized status to illegal immigrants, efforts to boost border security could be a key element in winning support from conservative lawmakers.

McCain said that the $85 billion in across-the-board sequester spending cuts had weakened border security.

"There's no doubt that our border is less secure because of the sequester. And we'll be doing whatever we can to restore the funding," he said.

President Obama and congressional lawmakers have displayed an eagerness to pass a big immigration bill. The White House, which took a hit in polls after the recent fights over the budget, hopes to boost Obama's political standing by moving the focus toward immigration reform.

Obama has said the issue is a second-term priority and told lawmakers that “the time has come” to move legislation during a naturalization ceremony at the White House on Monday.

A bipartisan House group is also working on a proposal, but while those details have not been released, their efforts have received the general backing of leaders from both parties.