After months of negotiations, the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” is ready to introduce the Senate immigration reform bill this week. Details about the measure—like the billions it would earmark for border security and the new visa program it would create based on work skills—have been leaking ahead of an expected announcement. And the proposal would create a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who already are living in the United States.
Ahead of the bill dropping, lawmakers have been making the case for immigration reform in the media. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)—who is part of the Senate group—pitched the immigration bill on seven Sunday morning news shows, arguing that it is a strong bill that will help control the border. And he pushed back on the conservative argument that the bill will be little more than amnesty. “This is not ‘amnesty.’ ‘Amnesty’ is the forgiveness of something. ‘Amnesty’ is anything that says ‘do it illegally, it’ll be cheaper and easier,'” Rubio said on Fox News Sunday. Instead, Rubio explained that the bill would include a process through which undocumented immigrants would pay fees and go through a years-long waiting period before they could qualify for citizenship.
Another Gang of Eight member, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), argued on ABC’s This Week that legalizing the millions of undocumented workers who are already in the U.S. would help the economy. “The bottom line is very simple, the number of illegal people will greatly decrease,” Schumer said. “They will have to be part of our society, they will not be able to bring down wages, work for less than minimum wage.” And Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who has been working on the Senate bill, told Univision’s Jorge Ramos on Sunday that the senators were putting the final touches on the measure. “This is the first time I’ve been optimistic in my 20 years here,” he said.
Introduction of the Senate measure is only a starting point, Rubio said on CNN, because “There are 92 other senators who have their own ideas about immigration reform, who, quite frankly, I think, can help make this bill better.” And in addition to the senators’ proposal, House members are also working on an immigration reform plan, and on Sunday, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said the House group is only “weeks” away from introducing a complementary bill. Despite opposition from some House Republicans, Diaz-Balart said he thinks they “have found a solution in the [political] center that resolves the problem and has the 218 votes.”
The Senate bill is a common-sense piece of legislation that goes far to fix our nation’s broken immigration system, and it is encouraging to know that lawmakers in the House are also working to improve immigration policy. It will come down to the details on the policy, of course. But if this proposal—including the path to citizenship for millions—makes it through Congress, as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) explained yesterday, “Eleven million people will not have to live in fear or in terror of being deported.”