Graham: Immigration reform deal could be ‘rolled out next week’

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators working on an immigration-reform bill, said Sunday the group had agreed on a deal to be unveiled soon and that he was confident the bill would eventually be signed into law by President Obama.

“We’ve got a deal,” said Graham on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “2013 I hope will be the year we pass bipartisan immigration reform, signed into law.”


Graham said lawmakers still needed to finish writing the legislation.

“It has to be drafted, it will be rolled out next week,” he said.

Sen. Charles Schumer, another member of the immigration group gave a similar timeline. He said the final draft will be done this week, Senate Judiciary Committee hearings would be in April, and the bill could hit the floor for a vote as early as May.

“With the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved on the ‘Gang of Eight’,” Schumer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Now everyone, we’ve all agreed that we’re not going to come to a final agreement until we have the legislative language and we all agree on that.”

“We’ve drafted some of it already and the rest will be drafted this week, and so I am very, very optimistic that we’ll have an agreement, the eight of us next week,” he added.  “Sen. Leahy has agreed to have extensive mark-up and debate in April, and then we go to the floor, God willing, in May. So we’re on track.”

The bipartisan group first unveiled their framework in January and has been negotiating over the details, including a path to citizenship and tougher border security measures.

There is growing momentum on Capitol Hill to pass immigration reform this year, with a bipartisan House group also working on unveiling their own proposal, which has already secured the general support of leaders from both parties.

President Obama has also made the issue a priority and last week called on lawmakers to move a bill quickly through Congress.

“I believe it will pass the House because it secures our borders and controls who gets a job,” Graham said Sunday of the forthcoming Senate plan. “I think it will pass both houses, we’re going to need the president’s support. I’m proud of the work product and look forward to rolling it out.”

Over the weekend, business and labor groups reached an agreement to establish a new low-skilled worker program, clearing one of the last major hurdles to legislative efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO resolved differences on how many visas should be offered in a program for temporary workers and how much those workers should be paid.

“Conceptually we have an agreement between business and labor and between ourselves,” Graham said. “As to the 11 million [existing illegal immigrants], they will have a pathway to citizenship but it will be earned, it will be long, it will be hard, but I think it is fair.”

This story was updated at 11:21 a.m.