Senate group close to completing immigration bill, Schumer says
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said yesterday that a bipartisan Senate group is “90 percent” done with its draft of legislation to overhaul U.S. immigration law.
“Bottom line is, we are very close,” Schumer, who is part of an eight-member group working on the proposal, said at a news conference in Arizona following a tour there of the border with Mexico. “I’d say we’re 90 percent there. We have a few little problems to work on.”
Schumer said yesterday’s border tour, which he took with fellow senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, and Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, deepened his understanding of the challenges in securing the U.S. border. He said the visit would make it easier for him to explain to his Democratic Senate colleagues why Republicans are insisting on measurable increases in border security as part of a plan.
Republicans say a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. must be contingent on improving border security.
“Whatever your views are on immigration, Arizona is ground zero,” Schumer said, noting that McCain and Flake had been pushing hard in the talks for technological improvements at the border.
Schumer said the trip convinced him that federal agents “have adequate manpower but not adequate technology” at the border. Still, he cautioned that the Senate group must find an “effective but also cost effective” approach that does not add to the budget deficit.
The Senate group is planning to unveil its proposal, which is based on principles it released in late January, the week of April 8.
A remaining issue in the talks is how to resolve a long-simmering dispute between organized labor and business groups over a new program to provide U.S. work visas to low-skilled foreign workers and the wages that businesses should be required to pay those workers.
Labor unions say U.S. businesses are trying to create a program that would let them import workers who could be easily exploited and paid low wages. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said he’s trying to secure an exemption in the bill for the construction industry until the nation’s jobless rate stabilizes.