Senators optimistic immigration reform will happen this year

But the House will probably throw cold water on their plans

Topics: Immigration, Illegal immigrants, Marco Rubio, John McCain, Chuck Schumer,

In a press conference Monday, a bipartisan group of senators rolled out the framework of a new push for immigration reform, with an eye on late spring or summer to introduce legislation. The plan involves a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants already living in this country, though the pathway is “contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays.”

“We believe this will be the year Congress finally gets it done,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, adding: ”For the first time ever, there is more political risk in opposing immigration reform than in supporting it. We believe we have a window of opportunity to act, but we will only succeed if the effort is bipartisan.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who occasionally flip-flopped on his support for immigration reform, referred to the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country as “a de-facto amnesty.”

“We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve us food, clean our homes and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great,” he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a key Republican member of the group, said in his remarks that “what we have now is not a 21st century legal immigration system,” and that “America is a sovereign country that has a right to have immigration laws, and a right to reform them.” He added that the 11 million undocumented immigrants are “not something anyone is happy about, that’s not something anyone wanted to see happen,” but they are the reality and must be dealt with.

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The White House, Harry Reid and John Boehner have all responded that they welcome these proposals, but there is still the unavoidable problem of whether any meaningful reform can successfully pass through the House.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte R-Va., who now chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that there is still “a lot to discuss.”

“The American people and members of Congress have a lot of questions about how this would work, what it would cost and how it will prevent illegal immigration in the future. This will have a huge impact on the American people, and so we have to carefully evaluate its impact,” Goodlatte said.

And Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, one of the more conservative members of the House, said that a pathway to citizenship will likely be “one of the sticking points between the House and the Senate.” He added: “We have to be careful about rewarding people for illegal activity with citizenship.”

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, agreed. “When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration,” he said. “By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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