Reid, Schumer, Menendez to unveil immigration reform plan

Senate Democrats will unveil a plan to reform U.S. immigration laws on Thursday afternoon.

The plan will require that benchmarks be met on border security before the status of illegal immigrants is settled, according to a memo prepared by Senate Democratic offices.

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The memo indicates the Democrats' plan includes measures to bolster border security and unify standards for the detention and removal of illegal immigrants. The plan also provides a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants who agree to some penalties, including paying back taxes. 

The names of three Democratic senators are attached to the memo: Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (N.J.).

Reid will unveil the framework for the bill at a 5:45 p.m. press conference, according to a press release sent out by Democrats.

Schumer has been spearheading the immigration reform effort and said this morning that he's been reaching out to Republican senators on the plan.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who had worked with Schumer for some time on a proposal, warned Thursday that "if you bring up immigration in this climate, you'll divide the country further."

Graham told The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, though, that while he sympathizes with immigration reform, it just can't be done this year.

"If you go, I can't go with you. Some supporters of immigration reform think I've abandoned them," he said. "But they're not listening. This is just too far for me and for the issue this year."

Other key congressional figures have warned about the feasibility of immigration reform. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said that he doubts Democrats can fit it into their schedule this year.

And while House leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have suggested the Senate must act first on immigration, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned there's "not a chance" that Congress would pass an immigration bill this year.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday night said he favors moving forward on immigration reform, but warned that Congress might not have the political will to take up the issue this year.


"That's a step in the right direction," one of the most forceful advocates for immigration reform, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), said after learning Senate Democrats would unveil their draft proposal, which he said he had seen.

Gutierrez was unfazed by Obama's comments. The congressman said the process would undergo a lot of "ups and downs" before reform is ultimately achieved.

"It means double down. Be persistent," Gutierrez said. "We can't let our guard down.

"It is what it is, but it is not a death knell."

He said he was opposed to pushing immigration reform as a political maneuver to rally Latinos for the 2010 elections. If a bill can't pass, Gutierrez said, "I don't want a cynical vote."


This story was updated at 1:55 p.m. and 4:21 p.m.