How the Senate immigration plan came together
January 28th, 2013
11:09 AM ET
10 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. The Real Tom Paine


    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.
    Commenting on the obvious is never brainwashing. Its called "observing".

    January 28, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. MrBeenThere

    Don't worry when it comes time to take a vote, Lindsey Graham won't even vote for his own bill.....
    All Obama has to do is say great job and the GOP will sing a different tune.......

    January 28, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. DENNA

    Memo to the GOP: Don't forget the OTHER non-white, non-male voters too. If you want to survive, you don't get to pick and choose. All Americans are important – even the poor. President Obama was smart enough to know this. He spent his time not appealing to his "base", but appealing to the American public at large. No magic involved, just plain old common sense. Try it sometime.

    January 28, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. calvin

    don't look like obama want to work with anyone either

    January 28, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. Karin

    Why don't we offer Illegals new cars why we are at it...just for their votes.....What will both parties stoop at? Totally insane

    January 28, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    jerome responded:

    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?
    Just as I thought. Echo chamber. I never knew that your average state motor vehicle office would be located in "a building full of police officers." Yup, echo chamber.

    January 28, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    "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?
    When I asked that question I was actually testing whether or not someone knew what they were talking about, or simply being a good little drone and repeating the talse talking points that they had memorized.

    As to your point, why shouldn't people have to provide ID when they purchase guns? The NRA's Lapierre is setting the policy positinos for the Republican Party. How disgusting. The NRA's priorities can be measured by the people who make up its' board. They're all owners and top executives of companies that manufacture guns and ammo: and the board defines the public policy of the NRA. Lapierre simply expresses their opinions for them.

    January 28, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  8. DENNA

    I love this argument against illegal immigrants. I wonder if the Native American tribes fretted like this when the Europeans stormed this country and stole their land? Just a thought. History repeating itself? Sometimes carma is a pistol.

    January 28, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
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