'Latinos don't vote.' No, they vote and we're growing big time."
Senators who announced the agreement Monday acknowledged they were in the very early process and many pitfalls still loomed.
However, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said while other groups of politicians has "trumpeted similar proposals," he said "We believe this is the year Congress will finally get it done."
But the senators quickly encountered a cool reaction from other lawmakers, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who said immigration legislation is too important to be written in a back room.
Although myriad prickly issues remain on the table, most lawmakers agree the nation's inefficient patchwork of immigration laws don't work.
President Barack Obama, who will publicly discuss the initiative Tuesday, is committed to enacting comprehensive immigration legislation and will travel to Nevada on
Tuesday to lay out his vision, which is expected to overlap in important ways with the Senate effort.
Besides McCain and Schurmer, the senators who endorsed the new principles Monday were Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
According to the bipartisan framework released Monday, there are four goals:
Creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here, contingent upon securing the border through increased use of drones and other technology, and better tracking of people here on visas.
Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.
Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire undocumented immigrants in the future, including requiring prospective workers to verify legal status and identity through a non-forgeable electronic system.
Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn't recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.
Glenn Spencer, the founder and president of Arizona-based American Border Patrol, said border security is paramount and that it is currently laughably inadequate. He contends that 750 undocumented immigrants per day successfully cross the border and evade detention each day near Tucson alone.
"It's out of control," Spencer said. "There has been a surge since August (when the Dream Act was announced) and we would expect a huge surge if amnesty were offered. We believe it's a bad idea to even talk about it."
However, Spencer adds that if Congress can come to an agreement on what constitutes a secure border and proves it can secure the border, he supports a path to legalization.
Spencer said the American people have "great compassion" and would support amnesty if they could reasonably be assured the border was secured and "that's the end of it."
Schurmer made a point to stress that while the path to citizenship will be long and difficult, it was important to note that as soon as legislation is passed, the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country would have "the legal right to stay here and work and no longer be harassed."
Again Nieto says she has seen promises come and go in the past.
"If there's good news, it will reach me fast," she said. "If there's bad news, it will reach me faster."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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