McCain, Schumer warn House: Bill lacking path to citizenship a ‘nonstarter’

The Senate authors of comprehensive immigration reform legislation have a blunt message for their House colleagues: the final package must include a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday morning that any legislation coming from the House that does not provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants will not receive a single Democratic vote in the Senate.

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“It’s a nonstarter,” Schumer said of any attempt to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws without giving illegal immigrants already in the country a path to citizenship.

“Any attempt to say in the House that you will not have a path to citizenship, will be a nonstarter,” said Schumer. “I say that unequivocally. It will not pass the Senate,” he warned.

Schumer noted that there has been “huge discontent” in European countries that have established guest-worker programs but denied immigrants the opportunity to become citizens.

“The American dream is you can become an American,” he said at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

McCain, speaking at the same breakfast, presented a unified front with Schumer on the divisive issue.


“There’s no way of getting this job done without giving people a path to citizenship,” said McCain.



“And a lot of our friends in the Hispanic community, when they look at what’s required on that path to citizenship, they’re not very happy. We’re talking about 13 years, when we’re talking about a $500 fee,” he said.

McCain said granting immigrants legal status to work in the United States but withholding a path to citizenship “offends our fundamental principles of fairness in our society.”

Some Republicans have suggested immigration reform would face a much smoother path without the contentious issue of granting citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, which many conservatives deride as “amnesty.” It is estimated that it would take about 13 years for illegal immigrants who arrived in the country before Dec. 31, 2011 to receive citizenship under the Senate proposal.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee says the path to citizenship jeopardizes the chances of passing a bill.

“I think if instead the bill includes elements that are deeply divisive — and I would note that I don’t think there is any issue in this entire debate that is more divisive than a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally — in my view, any bill that insists upon that jeopardizes the likelihood of passing any immigration reform bill,” Cruz said at a hearing Monday.