WHITE HOUSE — Immigration reform legislation will be introduced within hours, according to two key senators who met Tuesday with President Barack Obama. The lawmakers gave a positive assessment of the bill’s chances of passing the Senate.
President Obama is urging senators to move quickly to pass the bipartisan initiative to update U.S. immigration laws.
After leaving the Oval Office, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator John McCain were optimistic about the bill’s progress.
Schumer told reporters the compromise bill will move ahead, despite not being as wide-ranging as Obama had hoped.
“And so, we are feeling very good about this. Things are moving in a very, very good way. And the president’s support of our proposal, even though he would not fully agree with it, is sort of just the right place to be,” Schumer said.
In a written statement, the president said the bill does not include everything he wanted, but it is largely consistent with his principles for comprehensive reform.
McCain, who unsuccessfully sponsored an immigration bill in 2007, said he believes this legislation will go forward.
“This is the beginning of a process, not the end. We will have hearings, we will have amendments, we will have floor debates, but I am confident that at the end of the day, we will have a bill to the president’s desk,” McCain said.
After being introduced by Schumer, the immigration bill is to undergo hearings next week. It would likely reach the Senate floor in late May or early June.
The legislation would create a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, but only after steps are taken to secure the border with Mexico, where many illegal immigrants enter.
In his home state of Arizona, which borders Mexico, McCain has received sharp criticism for supporting legislation that allows illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. But he said most Americans support the provision if it is accompanied by a strengthened border patrol and strict requirements for becoming a citizen.
“Then the overwhelming majority of Americans are willing to give these people who are in this country illegally, some of them for many, many years, the opportunity to have a path to citizenship and a legal residency,” McCain said.
The bill is a result of months of behind-the scenes negotiations between Democrats and Republicans. Schumer said it has the support of business, labor and agriculture organizations.
If the legislation passes the Senate, it is expected to face a tougher path in the House of Representatives.