US Senators close to deal on immigration reform
Agence France-Presse in Washington
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers is on the cusp of introducing the most sweeping immigration reform in a quarter century, in what could amount to a dramatic victory for President Barack Obama.
A Senate bill is expected to be unveiled as early as Monday, Democrat Robert Menendez, one of eight senators tasked with thrashing out the deal, said at a immigration reform rally outside the US Capitol.
Several members of the so-called Gang of Eight - four Democrats and four Republicans - have said it would contain a long-term path to citizenship for most of the country's 11 million undocumented migrants.
The bill will include an expansion of quotas of foreign workers, as well as demand stringent - and expensive - new tightening of border security measures.
Immigration reform has been a key recent focus for Obama, while Republicans smarting from last year's election defeat are seeking to broaden their appeal to minorities.
"We are very, very close," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said. In a sign that a deal was imminent, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy scheduled a hearing on the bill for Wednesday, heaping pressure on the negotiators to finalise the legislation. A Senate aide said Leahy has promised to allow unlimited debate and amendments during consideration of the bill.
Alex Burgos, a spokesman for Senator Marco Rubio, said the Senate Republican Policy Committee had also agreed to host a public hearing after the bill is introduced. "We believe that the more public scrutiny this legislation receives, the better it will become," he said.
According to a person familiar with the plan, illegal immigrants would be barred from applying for permanent legal residency until authorities are monitoring 100 per cent of the southern US border with Mexico and stopping 90 per cent of the people crossing illegally in some areas.