Immigration Reform 2013: Gang Of 8 Close to a Finished Bill

ByWilliam Smith

Four Democratic and four Republican Senators, including John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — the so-called “Gang of Eight” — have been working tirelessly over the past several months in order to hash out a compromise and create a bill reforming the country’s immigration policy. Of all the major issues facing the country, immigration is a notoriously difficult one, as it involves views on highly emotional concepts such as fairness, opportunity, and concerns about national identity and culture.

In addition to the disagreements over the issues themselves, there seems to be disagreement over the progress and nature of the discussion. Schumer acknowledged that while there have been some “kerfuffles,” they have been settled; however, Rubio described reports of an agreement “premature.” In any case, McCain pointed out that this working session is only the beginning of the bill process; from the Gang of Eight, the bill will go to the Judiciary Committee, then the Senate, and so on. It is possible that a finished proposal will be released by the end of this week, and if this happens, there could be a floor vote in May.

There are not many available details about the proposal (indeed, anything reported now may very well change over the next few days). There is some reason to expect that at least a main aspect of the proposal will include efforts to improve border security paired with some form of guest worker/path-to-citizenship policy. The eight senators agree that the first step is to tighten security at the border in order to stem the influx of illegal immigrants. McCain explained that during the Reagan administration, amnesty occurred before making improvements to border security; the citizenship path was originally given to three million immigrants, but as of now, there are approximately eleven million illegal immigrants living inside the country. McCain also alluded that there was shared support for some sort of path-to-citizenship reforms: "Most Americans agree that if you pay back-taxes, if you pay a fine, if you learn English, if you go to the back of the line, then you can and should be eligible for a path to citizenship." 

The senators may have reached some agreements, but they readily acknowledge that the road to reform will be fraught with challenge. Both McCain and Schumer spoke to the likelihood that there will be future disagreement and disappointment with the bill, whether it occurs on the Hill or among the citizenry in general. Over the next few months, the bill will continue to be revised and challenged, but hopefully the end result will not sacrifice fairness and opportunity in the name of feasibility.