WASHINGTON, D.C. -A day after a key Senate committee chairman criticized bipartisan negotiators working on an immigration bill for being too slow, a Senate aide close to the negotiations told NBC Latino the April deadline to introduce the bill is still on.
Republican Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and five other Republicans of the Senate Judiciary Committee are raising potential stumbling blocks, such as getting business and labor to agree on guest workers and visa programs, the issues of how secure the border has to be, and what exactly constitutes a pathway to citizenship.
The group of six Senators, including Texas Republican Ted Cruz, sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy urging for more time to conduct hearings on immigration reform before any potential bill would be voted on.
“We’ve crossed the point of no return,” says the aide. “Are you going to have bumps? Yes, but it doesn’t mean it won’t go forward. Everybody is completely committed.” One reason why it is moving forward is the key role Republicans are playing in spearheading the effort, especially Senators John McCain and Senator Marco Rubio, joined by Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Richard Durbin. “Republicans have understood the immigration issue has become an identity issue for Latino voters,” says the Senate aide, adding “They know they have to get it right.”
Recent polling bears this out. A new Latino Decisions poll found 61 percent of Latinos say they would be willing to vote for a pro-immigration reform Republican candidate over a Democrat who opposes a pathway to citizenship or calls it “amnesty.”
And a newly-released Brookings PRRI poll found 63 percent of Americans believe undocumented immigrants should be given an eventual path to citizenship; less than one in five (14 percent) oppose eventual citizenship. Moreover, nearly half (45 percent) of Americans say the Republican Party’s positions on immigration have hurt the party.
The Republican National Committee’s (RNC) recently-released blueprint calls for immigration reform, and Kentucky Tea conservative and Tea Party Republican Rand Paul endorsed the need to fix the current system, including legalizing the nation’s undocumented.
“At the end of the day, Congress is designed to move following the will of the people,” says the Senate aide. “But when you are seeing not just Latinos but significant numbers of African-Americans and whites basically lining up with these ideas, it’s a mandate to get things done. Things can slip off or on for a week or two, but it will happen.”