|(L to R) U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) attend a press conference on bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill, in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, Jan. 28, 2013. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)|
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- A bipartisan group of key senators of the United States announced on Monday their plan to overhaul the country's immigration policies, a day before U.S. President Barack Obama is set to make a highlighted move over immigration reform.
A TOUGH PATH
The group of eight senators announced their framework of principles to guide the immigration reform at a news conference.
Democratic Senator Charles Shummer said the group have agreed " on a set of bipartisan principles for comprehensive immigration reform legislation that we hope can pass the Senate in overwhelming and bipartisan fashion."
Calling the bipartisan blueprint "a major breakthrough," Shummer stressed that the key of the agreement is "to recognize that Americans overwhelming oppose illegal immigration, and support legal immigration."
The first pillar of the plan is to "create a tough, but fair path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants currently living in the United States, said Shummer.
The plan also includes other three basic points: overhauling the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants with advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university; creating an effective employer verification program to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants; plus some worker programs to serve the country 's future workforce needs, including allowing more low-skill workers into the country.
"We recognize the immigration system is broken," the lawmakers wrote in the introduction to their five-page framework. "And while border security has improved significantly over the last two administrations, we still don't have a functioning immigration system."
The group of Senators including top ranking Democratic leaders as well as leading Republicans on immigration reform like Hispanic Senator Marco Rubio and veteran Senator John McCain.
However, the comprehensive immigration reform is well expected to go through a tough path, with major opposition from the Republicans-led U.S. House.
"The Speaker welcomes the work of leaders like Senator Rubio on this issue, and is looking forward to learning more about the proposal in the coming days," said House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman on Monday.
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes the Senators' proposals, including some principles that "mirror the president's blueprint," said the White House in response to the senate's move.
"This is a big deal. This is an important development," said White House spokesman Jay Carney at his daily briefing.
Obama will begin his formal push for immigration reform with a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, Tuesday and a highlighted speech. He is expected to lay out some of his immigration reform agenda, trying to keep leading on the issue.
"It is something that he has spoken about quite frequently since his re-election and made clear his commitment to act on this early in his second term. It's now the second week of his second term, and he is acting on it," said Carney.
Obama vowed to push on immigration reforms during his re- election bid last year and won over two thirds of Latino voters. In his first term, he didn't push hard for major legislative solutions to the country's immigration policies. Instead, he launched programs to stop deporting some young immigrants during a tight campaign last summer, an effort that was believed to further boost his support among Latino voters.
David Plouffe, a senior White House advisor, voiced optimism in last week's interview with CNN for the immigration reform bill to get forwarded in Congress. He believed finally "the stars are aligned" for answers to overhaul the country's immigration system, noting that there could be a broader support from Republicans nationally than with Congress.
Carney also said last Friday that Obama hoped the dynamic around the immigration reform has changed, referring to more willingness of the congressional Republicans to move on the issue.
"With President Obama getting 72 percent of the Latino vote in the 2012 election and Hispanics becoming a larger percentage of the electorate in crucial swing states, it is time for legislators to step up and address this issue. For the first time in many years, both parties have clear incentives to take meaningful action," wrote Darrell West, Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at Brookings Institution, in a blog released on Tuesday.
West noted that the immigration reform is not just coming up amid the shifting political dynamics, but also in "a paradox of the contemporary situation" of the country.
At a time of high unemployment, there is still a number of fields with problems to fill key positions, including both high- tech fields and some labor-intensive industries, wrote him.
"Providing a pathway to citizenship for those who already are here and adopting measures that help highly educated immigrants in science, technology, engineering, and math stay here are vital for American prosperity," said West, "Congress should seize the moment and take action in this crucial area."
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