By Mike Lillis - 05/08/13 07:00 PM EDT
House lawmakers negotiating a sweeping immigration reform package will unveil their proposal this month — or never at all, a member of the group vowed Wednesday.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said only a few disagreements remain to be ironed out within the bipartisan Group of Eight, which has been meeting for four years to craft legislation that can pass through Congress. If those differences aren't resolved by June, Gutiérrez said, then the window will have closed on reaching a deal this year.
Gutiérrez, Capitol Hill's most persistent immigration reform advocate, declined to identify what — or how many — sticking points remain, but said the group will meet again Wednesday afternoon to continue the process.
"We're always making progress — every day," he said.
The other seven House negotiators are Reps. John Carter (R-Texas), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Sam Johnson (R-Texas), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).
Gutiérrez made the comments one day before the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin to mark up a separate comprehensive immigration reform bill unveiled last month by a similar Gang of Eight in the upper chamber. It's unclear how long the markup will take, but few are predicting a quick process. Indeed, members of the Judiciary panel filed more than 300 amendments to the bill this week.
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has vowed to push ahead with hearings on separate pieces of immigration reform even without legislation from House negotiators. Goodlatte has emphasized, however, that his "step-by-step approach" is not designed to replace a comprehensive reform package, should one surface later in the year.
Gutiérrez, for one, knows there's a big fight to come. But the Chicago native is predicting that, after years of coming up short, reform advocates will finally see their efforts bear fruit.
"This is going to be a long, laborious process. This is the beginning," Gutierrez said Wednesday. "It will take awhile before everybody has spoken and everybody's opinion is heard. But in the end, I really believe we're at the crossroads of a great victory."