How the Senate immigration plan came together
January 28th, 2013
11:09 AM ET
2 years ago

How the Senate immigration plan came together

Washington (CNN) – The emerging immigration reform plan from a group of bipartisan senators, set to be announced Monday, is the product of a months-long process that began after this November's election, which saw overwhelming Latino support for President Barack Obama.

A source familiar with the plan's development told CNN Monday that the process began right after the election with a call from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham to Democrat Chuck Schumer, proposing they re-start their work on a comprehensive immigration bill that had broken down in 2010.

Those 2010 efforts drew fire from all sides, with the progressive publication The American Prospect at one point calling their plan "ridiculous" and GOP party committees in Graham's home state of South Carolina censuring him for his congressional votes on immigration. Talks eventually stalled.

In their November phone call, Graham told Schumer that fellow Republican Sen. John McCain also wanted to be involved this time. McCain was an early supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, but backed away from pushing a path to citizenship after his position hurt him with GOP primary voters during his run for president in 2008.

Soon after Schumer and Graham's conversation, a core group of six senators formed, meeting five times in Schumer and McCain's Capitol Hill offices. That group included Schumer, Graham and McCain, along with Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, and Democrats Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democrat in the Senate.

Two other senators – Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado – attended some of those meetings, but not all of them, and were the last to sign onto the proposal, which is set to be announced at a press conference Monday afternoon.

The eight lawmakers' proposal includes provisions for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, and guest worker and employment verification systems.

At their first meeting, the senators established a timetable for themselves: create a framework for immigration reform by the end of January, write the more detailed text of a bill by March, and pass the legislation in the Senate by the end of July.

That schedule would allow the Republican-controlled House of Representatives enough time to work through the bill so that President Barack Obama could sign it into law by the end of the year – avoiding any overlap with the 2014 midterm elections.

Debate on the measure in the House is still a far way off, though a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Monday "The Speaker welcomes the work of leaders like Sen. Rubio on this issue, and is looking forward to learning more about the proposal in the coming days."

The Senate group's last meeting was January 23, which was followed by several days of working through certain details of the plan. On Sunday, Schumer called the president to tell him the group had created an immigration reform framework, and was planning to announce the measure on Monday.

That's one day ahead of Obama's own immigration push, slated to come during a speech in Las Vegas Tuesday. The source who provided the details of how the plan came about said the Senators timed their announcement to give the president's speech more "oomph."

The source also revealed that the White House has been working on its own immigration reform bill – an unusual move for the executive branch – that they were planning to ask Sen. Patrick Leahy to introduce in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs.

The source said if the White House does push their own bill, it would only serve as a "fallback" to the bill pushed by the eight senators to make clear they have a "contingency plan" if the bipartisan process breaks down.

So what are the potential sticking points? The source pointed to still-unsettled items in the bipartisan framework released Monday, which lacked specific details on how border security would be bolstered and how a path to citizenship for immigrants already in the United States would work.

Senators still need to decide whether border security measures would be determined by boots on the ground or drones, or a combination of both, and whether any final decision would be subject to assessment by an administration official.

And on the path to citizenship, the senators must determine a compromise between the plan advanced by Rubio, which would not increase the number of permanent resident cards – often called "green cards" - available, and the Democrats' preference, which would increase the number of permanent resident slots for the eleven million undocumented immigrants who are stuck waiting for legal status.


Filed under: Immigration • Senate
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. rs

    Not to worry- despite the talk that the GOP needs to entice minorities into its ranks, and that the Senate (where the saner GOP members are) has embraced a reformer spirit, two things will derail real Immigration reform. First, the irrational and un-American hatred on the part of the GOP for our President. They simply WILL NOT do anything that will benefit him in anyway, or be perceived by anyone as a "victory". Second, the TEA Party members in the House- who are openly racist and irrational won't vote for it. They are still too busy trying to criminalize abortion and birth control to do anything quite so practical.
    The GOP will not be successful and reigning in their lunatic fringe on this issue.

    January 28, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. California Gary

    Once again, the GOP shows us who they really are. These senators want reform not because they think it's the right thing to do, but because they want to have a chance to win some Latino votes in the next election. A souless bunch, these guys. Doesn't matter though, because the radical element controlling the House is not likely to let this get by them.

    January 28, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. Name lynn

    Why is the GOP talking about the litanos, leave them alone the latinos is not your problems, its obama fest your mind on the fiscal budget cuts bills, an stop arguing with obama an get it right in the white house.

    January 28, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    The conservative mindset says, "They need to join with us."
    The liberal mindset says, "We need to join with them."

    January 28, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  5. Vic

    So, who wants to bet $10 that Rubio rallies against this immigration reform plan he is part of when he announces his candidacy for the GOP nomination in a couple of years?

    January 28, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  6. jerome

    And not a word on CNN about Illinois allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.

    January 28, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  7. Bill from GA

    Topics like Immigration Reform allow me to back my claim as an Independent. I surely don't agree with the long-time liberal view.

    Part of the idea is that we have jobs that 'Americans will not do'. If we make the undocumented workers legal, why do we expect them to remain at the bottom of the job chain? Will they continue to pick peaches in Georgia if they can compete on an equal basis (and maybe slightly lower wages) for ANY job? We will still need labor for agriculture, and paying a decent wage seems to be off the table.

    As to construction, in the 1960's and seventies, building houses paid decent wages. Workers were black and white, college kids on summer jobs, and high-school dropouts, Viet Nam Vets alongside draft dodgers. American citizens won't do the work now because the wages have been driven down to the point that you can't support a family working construction.

    What will happen when these people are legalized? Will we then need a new batch of undocumented workers? Is there anything a politician will not do for a few votes?

    January 28, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. empresstrudy

    Since none of this actually operates except at the state level, this is yet another unfunded mandate no one cares about.

    January 28, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. Randy, San Francisco

    Minority voters will remember for a very long time the Republican Party came to the table kicking and screaming, after losing an election. The Republican Party is still the party of old white men with a mean streak of intolerance, hatred and intolerance. Just look for a large number of Republican Tea Party/anit-immigrant bullies in the Senate and House to vote no.

    January 28, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    jerome wrote:

    And not a word on CNN about Illinois allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.
    -------–
    Why would illegals being permitted to obtain a valid state driver's license be a problem? Personally, I don't like the idea but I am curious as to why you think it is bad. Yes, this is a test to see whether or not your words are from the echo chamber, or if really do you have original opinions.

    January 28, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Tom

    Randy, San Francisco

    Minority voters will remember for a very long time the Republican Party came to the table kicking and screaming, after losing an election. The Republican Party is still the party of old white men with a mean streak of intolerance, hatred and intolerance. Just look for a large number of Republican Tea Party/anit-immigrant bullies in the Senate and House to vote no.
    ********************************************************************************
    The Democrat must be very proud of you. They've done an excellent job of brainwashing you.

    January 28, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Kudos for the Senate doing the right thing. But that doesn't negate from the fact that the only reason republicans are willing to compromise on immigration is because of how badly they lost the latino vote. Republicans, maybe if you would have went along with Bush's immigration proposal, you guys wouldn't have lost the latino vote as bad as you did.

    January 28, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. Gregory M. Newbold

    I trust that the Democratic Senators [and especially IllinoisLs Durbin] co-ordinated this with the Whitehouse. It smacks of nieveity [sp?] or Senatorial arrogance for the Dems to allow the Republicans to bolster their "street cred" with Latinos and Asians on this topic in advance of President Obama`s much advertise speech on Immigration reform tomorrow.

    I have no concern that the bulk of asians & Latinos see through the GOP`s motivations for moving the ball forward [Their hearts are not in the right place]. However Dems shouldn`t let the GOP wiggle away for DECADES of hostility toward non-white Americans.

    January 28, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    CIR should focus more on legal immigration. Smart and Rich folks. Folks with PhD and Masters. More houses will be bought and our economy will improve rapidly.

    January 28, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. Fair is Fair

    "Why would illegals being permitted to obtain a valid state driver's license be a problem?"
    -----–
    If the first act they performed in this country was to break the law (by entering illegally), what would lend anyone to believe they would obey the law and carry auto insurance? If they were involved in an at-fault accident, what recourse could be taken against them? I had to show my birth certificate to prove I was of age to drive – what would they show? How could they prove residency in the state they were attempting to become licensed?

    January 28, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  16. jerome

    Rudy wrote:

    Why would illegals being permitted to obtain a valid state driver's license be a problem?
    -----------------------------------

    I don't know. Something about illegal immigrants going to a building full of police officers and leaving
    with a state divers license instead of being turned over to I.N.S. seems to strike me as wrong. Why do
    we even have immigration laws? Why does anyone bother following them?

    January 28, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  17. link

    The immigration has gotten larger over the past few years. I agree with why the conference was represented. But why did the conference take place now instead of before?

    January 28, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  18. Cathy

    Gee, here's something these politicians should think about......How about these illegal aliens get in line and become citizens the right way,

    January 28, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. Ind.

    I'm sure whatever is in it the democrats will just not enforce the laws they want.

    January 28, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  20. DENNA

    LOL. I just love how the GOP have discovered the very, very, visible latino population now that they have realized that they need more than white men to win. President Obama and the Democrats have long been aware of ALL Amercians and understand that everyone counts in America. The GOP received a cold, hard slap in the face during this last election so they are now aware of the other people in this country who are not white. The GOP needs to cut the Tea Party loose. They scared the heck out of the rest of us and encouraged us to mobilize for the good of America. They are now just a loud annoyance.

    January 28, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. Ferret out the BS

    Maybe this Bi-Partisan effort will set an example in compromise to get legislation that's good for all of America passed. We can only hope.

    January 28, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "If the first act they performed in this country was to break the law (by entering illegally), what would lend anyone to believe they would obey the law and carry auto insurance? If they were involved in an at-fault accident, what recourse could be taken against them? I had to show my birth certificate to prove I was of age to drive – what would they show? How could they prove residency in the state they were attempting to become licensed?"

    If they throw massive tantrums about the idea of buying insurance for their own health and medical treatment, what would lend anyone to believe they would obey the law and carry auto insurance? If they were involved in an at-fault accident and need ER services to save their life, what recourse could be taken against them for the costs they have now forced society to bear on their behalf? I had to show my birth certificate to prove I was of age to drive – but obviously no other countries on Earth have a system of registering and recording births, so immigrants obviously can't prove their age. Besides, Obama's is fake, so obviously all the other immigrants like him would be using fake birth certificates. Derp derp herpa derp!

    FIFY

    January 28, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. The Real Tom Paine

    The conversation here seems to have gone off the rails a bit. If this is a sincere attempt by the GOP to enact a truly comprehensive Immigration reform package, than I say its long overdue. As for the red herring about driver's licenses being issued to illegals in IL, I think that is wrong, but this package may negate any perceived "need" to provide any form of legal ID to someone who has entered the country illegally. I hope that is a sincere attempt, however, and not yet another attempt by the wacko fringe in the GOP to put lipstick on the proverbial pig their party has become.

    January 28, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  24. The Real Tom Paine

    -Ind.

    I'm sure whatever is in it the democrats will just not enforce the laws they want.
    **************
    The same way righties are saying they will refuse to enforce or follow any gun control legistlation that may get passed? there are plenty of Republicans who have ignored immigration laws when its benfitted them.

    January 28, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. Don

    The problem is and always has been too many legal immigrants not illegal immagrants. The good jobs are being taken by the cheap labotr caused by legal immigration.

    January 28, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
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