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Gang of Eight introduces immigration, border security plan

Sen. John McCain
(Photo courtesy of Office of Sen. John McCain)
Sen. John McCain

Arizona’s two U.S. Senators joined with six of their colleagues Thursday to make a pitch for their comprehensive immigration reform bill. The new federal plan would not outlaw state immigration measures. 

The bill would create an eventual path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally but only after the border with Mexico is deemed secure.

Charges of a porous border and federal inaction were major justifications for Arizona’s strict 2010 immigration law. Senator John McCain said if this reform bill passes, he thinks it will make laws like SB 1070 unnecessary.

“Whatever law we pass, a federal law, obviously would be the law that would apply to all states," McCain said. "But I don’t necessarily know that it would negate parts of SB 1070 that are not a part of this bill.”

McCain said while the group recognizes that many undocumented immigrants broke the law, they did so to improve their economic opportunities.

“They’re here, and realistically, there is nothing we can do that will induce them all to return to their countries of origin," he said. "Many of them make valuable contributions to our society, and will provide even more if they’re brought out of the shadows.”

His colleague, Senator Jeff Flake, said Arizona has borne the brunt of illegal immigration. At the Gang of Eight’s press conference in Washington, D.C., he pledged to make sure the bill’s border security provisions stay strong.

That was echoed by Florida’s Marco Rubio. He said the bill is, in part, about making sure employers have access to the workers they need, but it is also about enforcing our immigration laws.

"It’s about ensuring that the federal government, once and for all, does what it’s supposed to do in a way that’s effective and ensures that we never have this problem again," Rubio said. "And that’s why we say the federal government has to secure its border, and if it fails, then the states most affected by it will take care of it for them.”

While some call granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants amnesty, Rubio said leaving our immigration system as it stands is the real amnesty.

Other have deemed it punitive that the bill only creates a pathway to citizenship after the Southern border is secure, but Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York said the bill treats undocumented immigrants as an equally urgent priority.

“The current status quo on immigration makes no sense," Schumer said. "We turn away people from entering the country who could create thousands of jobs, and let people cross our borders who take away jobs.”

The group said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has agreed to take up the bill no later than June.