US senators close to immigration deal
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A bipartisan group of US senators is very close to reaching a deal on immigration reform and a bill could be introduced in Congress within days, sources of AFP said.
The reform, a key focus of President Barack Obama's second term, could contain a long-term path to citizenship for the country's more than 11 million illegal immigrants, as well as an expansion of quotas of foreign workers and tighter border security.
"We are optimistic that we will be able to introduce legislation soon," a Senate aide told AFP.
The four Democrats and four Republicans, who have held negotiations since February, could introduce their measure as early as Thursday or in the coming week, sources told AFP.
On Wednesday, Republicans in the so-called Gang of Eight are expected to brief their colleagues on the outlines of the deal during their party's policy lunch.
And in another sign that a deal was imminent, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy told Telemundo in an exclusive interview late Tuesday that he would schedule a hearing on the bill on April 17.
According to a Senate aide, Leahy has promised to have unlimited debate and amendments during committee consideration of the measure.
Alex Burgos, a spokesman for Senator Marco Rubio, said the Senate Republican Policy Committee has also agreed to host a public hearing after the legislation is introduced.
"We believe that the more public scrutiny this legislation receives, the better it will become," he said.
Comprehensive internal debate is one of the conditions requested by some congressional Republicans, whose party dominates the House of Representatives.
In that chamber, another bipartisan immigration reform bill is being crafted amid public sentiment that, according to opinion polls, appears increasingly keen on seeing a comprehensive solution on the matter.
According to a survey of 4,500 people released March 21, six out of 10 Americans are in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
But negotiations are complex because the last major immigration reform dates back to 1986 when, with Ronald Reagan in the White House, some 3.5 million illegal immigrants were granted amnesty.
Employers and unions are carrying out parallel negotiations to expand and overhaul entry quotas for workers in all sectors while lawmakers and the government debate border security.
The United States deports about 400,000 undocumented immigrants annually.
A large rally organized by Hispanic and pro-immigration reform groups was set to take place outside Congress Wednesday afternoon. - Rappler.com