April 29th, 2010
03:12 PM ET
11 years ago

Senate Democrats to push new immigration reform plan

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/21/art.arizonafence.07.gi.jpg caption="Top Democrats will formally announce the outlines of legislation for comprehensive immigration reform on Thursday."] Washington (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and other leading Democratic senators will formally unveil the outlines of
legislation for comprehensive immigration reform late Thursday, CNN has learned.

Two senior Democratic sources tell CNN that the Senate Democrats will discuss a proposal drafted by Reid, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.

"This is a draft that reflects months of bipartisan work. It is intended to serve as an invitation to Republicans to look at it and sit down to solve problems with us," one of the sources said.

Several Senate Democratic sources have also acknowledged to CNN, however, that there is virtually no chance immigration reform will pass the Senate this year. Many of those sources privately admit a key reason Democratic leaders are pushing the plan is to appeal to Hispanic voters in Nevada, who will play a big role in Reid's uphill battle for re-election in November.

The 26-page draft obtained by CNN acknowledges GOP concerns about Mexican border security by calling for "concrete benchmarks" to secure the border before granting illegal immigrants the opportunity to gain legal status.

Those benchmarks include: increasing the number border patrol officers and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, increasing the number of personnel available to inspect for drugs and contraband, and improving technology used to assist ICE agents.

At the same time, "high-tech ground sensors" would be installed across the Mexican border. Officers would be equipped with the "technological capability to respond to activation of the ground sensors in the area they are patrolling," according to the draft.

Fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant biometric Social Security cards would be issued to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants. Fines for knowingly hiring someone not eligible for employment would be increased by 300 percent. Repeat offenders would face time in prison.

The draft proposal includes a process to legalize an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the United States. It states that all illegal immigrants living in the United States would be required to "come forward to register, be screened, and, if eligible, complete other requirements to earn legal status, including paying taxes."

Illegal immigrants cleared by federal authorities would be eligible to petition for permanent resident status eight years after current visa backlogs have cleared.

Reid, Schumer, Menendez and three other Democratic senators met Wednesday evening with immigration reform advocates and agreed to hold a press conference Thursday to formally unveil the draft, CNN has learned.

Other leaders on the issue have been trying to secure elusive GOP support for the push, which is one of President Barack Obama's top domestic priorities. Schumer told CNN Thursday he is continuing to meet with Republicans on the issue.

But New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, one the Republicans who spoke to Schumer Thursday, told CNN he "won't do anything on immigration until the administration shows some willingness to address the border issue, and I think so far they have not fulfilled their responsibilities on the border."

Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she told Schumer on Wednesday that before moving ahead with other elements of immigration reform, a "real effort must be made first to secure the border and do all we can there."

Both Gregg and Murkowski said they do not consider themselves "in play" to potentially back the Democratic plan.

Meanwhile, the top Republican in the House dismissed the plan as little more than a political ploy with little chance of passage.

"There is not a chance that immigration is going to move through the Congress," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"I've been around here for a little while and know that in the middle of an election year after we've had bills like health care shoved down our throats ... you cannot do a serious piece of legislation of this size." The proposal "is nothing more than a cynical ploy to engage voters, some segment of voters, to show up in this November's elections."

Boehner said that while Congress needs to take up the issue of immigration reform, "you can't do it without serious bipartisan conversations
and bipartisan discussions."

In arguing that immigration reform cannot pass Congress this year, Boehner referenced Obama's comments on Air Force One Tuesday night, when the president said "there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue" on Capitol Hill.

"It's a matter of political will," Obama told reporters. "We've gone
through a very tough year, and I've been working Congress pretty hard."

Several sources involved in the Democratic effort noted that Reid promised Hispanics in Nevada - a key voting bloc for the majority leader - that he would bring up immigration reform. If the Republicans immediately reject the proposal, they indicated, Reid may have sufficient political cover to not bring the divisive issue to the Senate floor.

A spokesman for Reid took issue Thursday with the assertion that the Senate majority leader is pushing the bill for political reasons.

"Reid's commitment to this issue is genuine and long-standing," Jim Manley said. "Even though people think he's doing this for political reasons, he wants to do this because he believes it is the right thing to do."

- CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report

UPDATED 3:15 p.m.

Filed under: Democrats • Immigration • Popular Posts
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. Tina, NC

    Is there any doubt that Republicans have no intention of working on ANYTHING. All I have heard from the repubs for the last week now is how the state of Arizona just HAD to pass their law because the federal government has refused to do anything. Now that talks of immigration reform are starting they say it's not the right time. When is the right time?

    And, I would remind these repubs that while they sit back and blame the federal government that THEY ARE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. They were elected to solve problems not constantly play political games.

    April 29, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. MDM

    politics by the Dems – Repubs should take them up on the proposal and call for a vote by next week.... then Harry will tuck tail and run...

    April 29, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  3. Rich

    We need to first enforce the laws we have already. Local and State police regularly enforce federal laws. The new Arizona law just explocitly states that ALL Arizona local and State police must enforce federal laws concerning illegal aliens who they have detained for a reasonaly OTHER cause, say drunk driving, kidnapping, drug dealing, murder.

    April 29, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. citizen

    What kind of justice sysytem is this? Rewarding the law breakers and punishing the citizen?

    April 29, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  5. Wert

    Why can't they just be honest and say that they aren't going to stop illegal immigration because they want illegals to come and vote for them? It's astounding but, it's a fact.

    April 29, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. DIANA

    I hope they include punishment for companies that hire illegals.

    April 29, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  7. Marc

    Option Number One – Make a 'comprehensive immigration reform' or whatever that can actually makes the government to facge that issue in a legal and CONSTITUTIONAL way.
    Option Number Two – Let the border states do whatever they BELIEVE they have the right to do on that issue.

    And to those who says/ask 'what part of ILLEGAL immigrants' I don't get when I criticize the Arizona-sorry-excuse-of-a-law, I get it right, which is why I criticize the law.
    You don't solve a problem by creating a bunch of others.
    Illegal immigrants are onto crime? So are US citizens (or do you honestly think that everybody wanted by Arizona's Justice and locked in their prisons are Illegal immigrant?)...
    The police forces of Arizona are pro or against that law? Against.
    To force everybody to carry a document 24/7 proving that he/she is either US citizen OR a legal immigrant/tourist means what exactly? That everybody (that looks like of Latin ancestry most likely) is presumed GUILTY, not INNOCENT.

    April 29, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  8. EqualPolitics4Everyone

    Felonious Monk, your comment cannot be further from the truth!

    Remember the health care bill? Republicans wanted to work with Democrats through it. What did the Dems do? They excluded the Republicans from the negotiating tables and had backroom dealings for their own senators. That's unacceptable.

    What's going on now with the Wall Street Bill? Republicans want to negotiate with the Dems but your genius (sarcasm!) leaders Chris Dodd (who is so bad at what he does, Dems told him don't even bother running for office in 2010) and Harry Reid, won't reach across the table and accept Republican ideas.

    This is a 2 party country and DEMOCRATS NEED TO ACT LIKE IT. They don't and it's disgusting. I will never vote for a democrat again. They play party politics too much.

    April 29, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  9. Wisconsinite

    "This is a draft that reflects months of bipartisan work."

    But, of course we all know the GOP will do every thing they can to stall and obstuct it because that's how they roll! If Republicans REALLY wanted to do immigration reform, they wouldn't have blocked Bush when he tried. He was stopped by his own party!

    April 29, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. GI Joe

    Republicans like the low-pay. no-benefits slave labor for their corporate buddies. Gets them even more in political donations for their neo-naze campaigns.

    April 29, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. Gil

    Let's see, before they even make it public I bet the Party of No will be against it sight unseen! The Party of NO will not offer any of their proposals and will not attend any sessions to deal with it and will then they will say they were left out of the process all together. What a bunch of UnAmericans!

    April 29, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  12. Wisconsinite

    Cynthia April 29th, 2010 12:29 pm ET

    Perhaps Congress should have tackled this issue before they passed that ridiculous health care bill.

    That "ridiculous health care bill" is allowing my 24 year old son, who has health problems and no job, to stay on my insurance for two more years, so maybe you should keep your uninformed opinions to yourself, Cynthia.

    April 29, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Ric

    "The draft proposal also includes a process to legalize an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the U.S."

    This country will go INSANE if amnesty is granted to 10 million illegals. Im telling you, you think healthcare was bad? Wait until the words AMNESTY starts flashing on the CNN/FOX News chanel banners.

    This is all a game by Obama to secure more votes. Obama could care less about anyone but himself unless he needs a group of people to use for his own gain. In this case, its the illegals. Like i said, if amnesty is granted prepare for war.

    April 29, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "Be cheeper to send them back"

    Here's the math...and suprisingly, it doesn't requie actual numbers:

    Send them back = billions in enforcement costs and hearings, etc.

    Make them citizens thru an expedited process = billions in new tax revenue.

    2 + 2....

    April 29, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. Wisconsinite

    How about if we send all of the ignorant, loud-mouthed, red-necked racists TO Mexico and let all of the hard-woking, but illegal, Mexicans stay and become legal? I think it's a good idea.

    April 29, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  16. j

    What`ll I do for a gardener, maid, butler --- and who`ll take care of my children if we can`t have illegals ???? Who`ll pick the fruit, drive the tractors, work the fields for a dollar a day and a sack of beans ???? Etc,etc.

    April 29, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. vic nashville tn

    Its funny when anti immigration group says democrats and Obama misleading the country . and they are going behind of Latino’s vote in past republicans did it

    Time to pass the immigration law and move on

    April 29, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  18. Steve (the real one)

    The following has been cut and pasted from a ticker story on 27 April @7:45PM.
    Obama made clear that illegal immigrants bear responsibility too. "We area nation of immigrants," he said, "but we are also a nation of laws." "The truth is that 11 or 12 million folks, we're gonna have to make them take responsibility for what they did," Obama said. "And the way to do that is to make them register, make them pay a fine, make them learn English, make them take responsibility for the fact that they broke the law
    Per Obama, THAT IS THE PLAN! I don't see deportation anywhere! We'll fine them (better be more than the $695 or 2.5% of their income that AMERICANS have to pay for not buying government mandated healthcare!), register them (as democrats, of course), and teach them English (paid for by you and me), then again, that requires the possible hiring of teachers and the liberals will then take credit for job creation! WOO-HOO! We ARE a nation of law! Enforcement, however is a totally different story!

    April 29, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  19. Jonathan

    You'll know the Democrats are serious about the problem when instead of "concrete benchmarks" they propose "concrete barriers.

    Enough with the fake surveillance cr-p. Run a double line of concertina wire along the entire border with raked sand between, then after the existing illegal aliens are either assimilated or deported, institute a "high fence, wide gate" policy for legal immigration which makes it easy for Mexicans who will be net contributors to gain lawful citizenship. We already tried blanket amnesty before and that's what got us to where we are now. A majority of Americans agree with the Arizona law, but probably also agree that it wouldn't be necessary if the Federal Government did its job.

    April 29, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Jerry

    The key point here is they illegal aliens and federal law is not being upheld by any one. Personally I thank Arizona for having the gonads to make some progress on the issue.

    April 29, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. Kathy Corey

    We need to go back to the policy requiring that immigrants be able to support themselves or have sponsorship that supports them while they become self-supporting. We cannot continue to add to the entitlement problem. We are a nation of immigrants who came here to work and to participate in the American dream. We did not come here expecting the Nanny state to take care of us.

    The Democrats want to legalize 10.8 million potential democratic supporters. That is their only motivation for this.

    April 29, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  22. M- I live in AZ...No to this stupid law!

    "The Republicans started the FIGHT by passing the law in AZ!!! Now, in my opinion, is the time to FINISH IT!!!" –T'SAH

    I agree! The Republicans here in AZ started it, and McCain walks around here like it's the fault of this Administration...Well, Maverick McCain since you are such a leader in YOUR party, it is time to DO SOMETHING about immigration; NOW! Pandora's box is OPEN!

    Reform Now! Reform Now! Reform Now! Reform Now! Reform Now!

    And don't believe that CRAP about 70% of Arizonans being for this law; that is a bunch of BS propaganda.

    April 29, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  23. Brian in California

    "House Minority Leader John Boehner said Thursday now is not the right time to take up immigration reform. "

    Well, well, well what a huge friggin' surprise...Boner...uh Boehner, says it's not time to do immigration reform. Anyone remember this is the same thing he said, repeatedly about healthcare and financial reforms?

    Sounds like a broken record with these guys. Vote these people out of office 'cause apparently there will never be a TIME to tackle these issues.

    Complain about Democrats all you people want but you CANNOT deny the fact that it is the Dems who are getting things done for this country and its people. Republicans are doing nothing at all just like they would have done with the financial crisis. They would have done nothing then we'd be in a depression now rather than a recovery.

    April 29, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. Walter

    As a Democrat, I have to admit that this puzzles me. Immigration is very nearly an insoluble problem because the underlying cause is the vast disparity between economic opportunity here and in Mexico.

    Moreover, the only people in America who care about this are the immigrants themselves (who are not much of a political asset at this point) and the haters on the right, who will never be satisfied with anything short of a program of ethnic cleansing.

    So why are Democrats bothering with this, especially in an election year?

    April 29, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  25. vahe

    even though GOP added more details on the this bill, they will turn their backs on it again. GOP is bunch of hypocrites.

    April 29, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
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