Senate Committee Nears Agreement on Immigration Reform Legislation

Lawmakers in Washington D.C. are reporting progress on bipartisan efforts to reform U.S. immigration laws. An agreement on proposed legislation to change the system could be announced by the end of January, 2013.

Democratic Senator Robert Menedez told ABC’s This Week program “I am cautiously optimistic. I see the right spirit. I see things that were once off the table for agreement and discussion being on the table.”

Mendez is part of a group of Democrats and Republicans who have been working to craft an immigration reform deal that could pass both houses of Congress. The lawmakers report the envisioned deal will give legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants while also strengthening U.S. border security.

Another member of the Senate committee, Republican Senator John McCain, also appeared on the show This Week. He said the ideas discussed are not new, but the political landscape surrounding the issue has changed.

He reported, “It’s not that much different from what we tried to do in 2007. What has changed, honestly, is that there is a new appreciation on both sides of the aisle – including, maybe more importantly, on the Republican side of the aisle – that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill.”

Republican opposition to immigration reform has softened since the 2012 elections, when more than two-thirds of Hispanic voters cast ballots for the Democratic party. Prominent Republicans have said their party will be hard pressed to win national debates unless it garners support from the Hispanic demographic.

Issues that remain include whether foreign citizens who entered the United States illegally or overstayed their visas can be eligible for eventual US citizenship. While Democrats vote yes on the issue, Republicans remain wary.

With this knowledge, McCain admits the status quo is unacceptable.

“We cannot go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status. We cannot forever have children who were brought here by their parents when they were small children to live in the shadows as well. So I think the time is right [for immigration reform],” he said.