Landscape shifts on immigration

Landscape shifts on immigration

A bipartisan group of senators on Monday said the political landscape for immigration reform has changed, boosting their hopes for passing a bill.

Recent elections have changed his party’s view on immigration, said Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore GOP strategist: 'There needs to be a repudiation' of Roy Moore by Republicans World leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report MORE, a Republican from Arizona who led an unsuccessful push to reform the nation’s immigration laws in 2006 and 2007.

McCain said his party’s leaders and strategists are convinced they need to agree to some measure of reform to boost the party’s image among Hispanic voters, who voted overwhelmingly for President Obama in November.

“As I’ve stated before, elections, elections,” said McCain, who along with four colleagues spoke out at a Monday afternoon Capitol Hill press conference about a set of bipartisan principles for reform they had released with three other senators a day earlier.

“The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens, and we realize there are many issues in which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a pre-eminent issue for those citizens,” said McCain, his party’s standard-bearer in the 2008 presidential election.

“We cannot continue as a nation with 11 million people residing in the shadows, and we have to address the issue and it has to be done in a bipartisan fashion,” McCain said.

McCain's point was underscored by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny Cornyn: Senate GOP tax plan to be released Thursday This week: GOP seeks to advance tax overhaul MORE's (R-Fla.) participation in the bipartisan Senate group. Rubio is seen as a leading contender for his party's presidential nomination in 2016, and his endorsement of the proposals gives the group some cover from conservative criticism. 

The four principles unveiled late Sunday include granting temporary legal status and creating a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, increasing visas for skilled workers, establishing an employer verification program and setting up a guest-worker program for jobs that cannot be filled by American citizens.

They stem from negotiations Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump is right: The visa lotto has got to go Schumer predicts bipartisan support for passing DACA fix this year No room for amnesty in our government spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Judiciary immigration subcommittee, kick-started with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCNN to air sexual harassment Town Hall featuring Gretchen Carlson, Anita Hill Trump wrestles with handling American enemy combatants Flake: Trump's call for DOJ to probe Democrats 'not normal' MORE (R-S.C.) after the election. Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems mull big changes after Brazile bombshell After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program MORE (D-Ill.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezIn judge's 2010 Senate trial, Menendez was guilty of hypocrisy Excused Menendez juror: 'I don't think he did anything wrong' We don't need a terrorist attack to know diversity program has to go MORE (D-N.J.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBipartisan lawmakers can rebuild trust by passing infusion therapy bill GAO to investigate Trump's voter fraud commission 2 election integrity commission members protest lack of transparency MORE (D-Colo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Flake on Moore defenders: 'This cannot be who we are' GOP senators raise concerns over tax plan MORE (R-Ariz.) have endorsed it.

“The public’s attitude has changed in four years,” said Schumer. “Now they much prefer a comprehensive solution including a path to citizenship as well as fixing the border and doing the things we talked about.

“The public is yearning for real change now,” he said.

The White House on Monday welcomed the principles, with press secretary Jay Carney describing the group's endorsement of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants as "a big deal."

While Schumer and McCain said the landscape on immigration reform had shifted, signs of the difficult debate ahead appeared throughout the day.

Shortly after their press conference, Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsCurtis wins Chaffetz's former Utah House seat Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny FBI can’t unlock Texas shooter’s phone MORE (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. David VitterDavid VitterYou're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat Overnight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending Former La. official tapped as lead offshore drilling regulator MORE (R-La.) criticized the Senate group’s proposal.

Sessions compared the latest framework to the 1986 immigration law that granted legal residency to millions of illegal immigrants with the pledge the nation’s borders would be secured.

“That was the promise that was made in 1986, when the bill did pass. But it did not fulfill its promise,” Sessions said. 

“So once again, I think that we’re in a situation where the promise will be made, that people will be given immediate regularized status and they won’t be given full rights of citizenship until certain laws are enforced and don’t worry about it,” he added. “But questions do need to be asked, and we will ask those questions.”

Vitter said he is also skeptical of the bipartisan principles presented Monday by McCain, Schumer, Rubio, Durbin and Menendez.

“What heightens my concern is that we have history as a guide and history suggests this brand of so-called comprehensive immigration reform, this promise of enforcement as long as we have an amnesty, all those things put together is a recipe for failure,” Vitter said.

The sponsors have only agreed to a set of principles and still have to draft legislation, which will require hours of painstaking negotiation. The group hopes to draft a bill by March 1 and send it to the Judiciary Committee for hearings.
Schumer has discussed the group’s principles with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyMaxine Waters to Sessions: 'Time to go back to the plantation' Franken has 'a lot of questions' for Sessions on Russia contacts Senate Dems demand Sessions testify after Papadopoulos plea deal MORE (D-Vt.), who will be key to moving it through the panel.
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidTop Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor GOP in uncharted territory rolling back rules through resolutions MORE (D-Nev.), who relied on a strong turnout of Hispanic voters to win tough re-election race in 2010, praised the framework and promised to play an active role in the debate.
“I applaud [the bipartisan group of eight] Senators for setting partisanship aside to tackle a crucial issue facing our nation. This is a positive first step,” he said. “I pledge that I will do everything in my power as Majority Leader to get a bill across the finish line.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell expects Paul to return to Senate next week Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law MORE (Ky.) urged Reid to move immigration reform through the Judiciary Committee and not bring it straight to the floor.
“This effort is too important to be written in a back room and sent to the floor with a take-it-or-leave it approach,” he said.
Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election White House strikes back at Bushes over legacy MORE (R-Ohio) offered a less enthusiastic response than Reid. He said the House would review the Senate’s work but stopped short of calling for comprehensive immigration reform. 
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, panned the Senate proposal as amnesty and warned that it would encourage more illegal immigration.
But other past opponents of comprehensive immigration reform expressed a willingness to reconsider the issue.
Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff Senate panel to hold hearing on bump stocks, background checks Senate panel to hold hearing on bump stocks MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who voted against immigration reform bills in 2006 and 2007, praised his colleagues for trying to find a long-term solution.
“There’s a lot to be said for these members working together and moving the issue forward,” he said. “And, while I especially appreciate the group’s focus on legal avenues of immigration, there are a lot of questions to be answered on even the most mundane of topics.”
He expressed concern over the lack of detail for a proposed employment verification system.

Updated at 7:30 p.m.